Tuesday, July 12, 2011

REVIEW: Bound by Sally Gunning

 Alice Cole's family is bound for a new life in America but when tragedy strikes during the voyage, Alice's father sells her as an indentured servant for 11 years and abandons her to her fate.  Alice becomes part of the household of the amiable Mr. Morton and grows up the companion of his daughter Nabby.  When Nabby reaches marriageable age she weds and takes 15 year old Alice with her to her new home.  Alice soon realizes she has been taken from a safe and secure home and thrust into a dangerous and abusive one.  She flees to Boston and stows away on a ship to Satucket, determined to forget her past and start over.  Alice is fortunate enough to be taken in by the Widow Berry but soon realizes leaving her secrets and past life behind may not be as easy as she thought.

This is actually the second of Sally Gunning's Satucket novels (the first being The Widow's War and the third The Rebellion of Jane Clarke).  I did not realize this until after I finished reading Bound.  Bound covers the period of Alice's life starting as a seven year old girl in 1754 and ending as an 18 year old in 1765.  Although there are many historical fiction novels written about slavery during this period, this novel gives us the often overlooked perspective of an indentured servant through Alice's eyes.

I really felt for her at the beginning of the book, being sold as at the young age of seven to serve until she turned eighteen.  At first Alice's situation is not that bad and she is quite content with Mr. Morton and his daughter.  It is when Nabby marries and becomes Mrs. Verley that things take a nightmarish turn for Alice as she is subjected to many unspeakable abuses by Nabby's new husband. Alice flees and is taken in and looked after by the Widow Berry and her boarder Mr. Eben Freeman.  I really liked the goodness of these two characters and the liberal, no nonsense Widow Berry.  It seems they want the best for Alice.  Even though Alice has fled from Verley, she finds herself to still be in dire circumstances.  She refuses to trust the Widow and Mr. Freeman who are her only two allies. Gunning makes it clear that life as an indentured servant was no picnic as any infraction could add time onto the contract and with the courts being so disinclined to take the side of a servant, it was really difficult to get justice for those servants who were wronged.

Alice's refusal to trust anyone was the one thing about the book that frustrated me to no end.  Alice has many secrets about her past she does not wish to reveal to the Widow or Mr. Freeman but even when trusting these two people is the key to her very survival she resolves to keep the truth from them at her own peril.  I found myself thinking "Just tell them the truth already!  Things could not possibly get worse than they already are even if you tell them!"  Her choosing to remain silent just seemed so irrational to me at times.

I enjoyed the picture that Gunning painted of the political upheaval and the social conventions of the time.  The book takes place when the unrest among the citizens of the colonies due to the unfair taxation by England really starts to heat up and it was interesting to see the politics of the time played out through the characters.  Except for wanting to occasionally slap some sense into Alice I really enjoyed this book.  I wish I would have started with The Widow's War though because Widow Berry was my favorite character in this one.  I will be reading that one shortly and most likely continuing on with the third novel.

This book is from my own personal library

1 comment:

  1. I just bought The Widow's War after reading (and loving) The Rebellion of Jane Clarke -- I highly recommend it.