Customer Reviews for

Wench

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

18 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

Every reader who enjoyed The Help will find Wench to be equally captivating.

Similar to The Help, Wench is a beautifully written poignant story of four African-American women in the South; however, Wench takes place 100 years before The Help. Set in the 1850's, Wench is the tale of four slave women who meet when their masters bring them to a sum...
Similar to The Help, Wench is a beautifully written poignant story of four African-American women in the South; however, Wench takes place 100 years before The Help. Set in the 1850's, Wench is the tale of four slave women who meet when their masters bring them to a summer resort in Ohio. The author has created women with very strong characters who bond together as they balance the indignity and privilege of being their masters' concubines. The servants in The Help had to contend with the attitudes of the women whom they worked for, however, Wench shows how the female slaves' masters treated them: sometimes tenderly, sometimes brutally, and always like property. Because this summer resort is in the North, the hotel employs "free coloreds". This first glimpse at freedom poses another challenge to the slaves' self respect and causes them to re-examine their tolerance of their lives and to struggle with the dream of freedom.

posted by ToniaNY on February 5, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Boring.

I tried to read this. I did not care about the characters at all. I found them boring and shallow. I didn't even finish the book. That is very rare for me.

posted by 101010mdy on August 6, 2010

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  • Posted March 2, 2011

    Couldnt put it down!

    this book was quite intriging. I read it in one day. Saw through each characters eyes. Felt their pain, fear and anguish. However the ending was a bit flat. I was caught up in the journey. I wanted more.

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    pleasantly surprised

    read this book

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  • Posted February 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    fascinating and disturbing, an amazing debut

    I really enjoyed the audio Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Quincy Tyler Bernstine did such an amazing job narrating this and capturing and expressing the varying emotions of the characters. Quincy was really able to effectively present each character in a way that was relatable and gave me, as a reader, a real feel for that time period.

    I thought Wench was an amazing debut novel. It tells the story of Tawana House, an American resort located in Ohio just before the Civil War. Tawana House was frequented by quite a few southern plantation owners who brought their slave mistresses with them which caused quite a bit of gossip for the northerners. Wench mainly focuses on the story of 4 particular women who are brought to Tawana House by their owners. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet, who have visited several times, are introduced to Mawu, whose unpredictable behavior and blunt honesty help the others to face some truths and begin to feel things they have never allowed themselves to feel. Most of all, hope.

    One of the things that fascinated me the most was that Tawawa House actually existed. I guess that shouldn't be so surprising, but I can see how learning about this place could inspire someone as talented as this author to tell its story. And I felt that Dolen Perkins-Valdez told it brilliantly. Even presenting such a painful subject as slavery and all the horrors that accompany it, while at times it was uncomfortable to read about, the characters were so engaging that I wanted to know their stories, however painful they may be. I was intrigued by the concept that, although these women were forced into a carnal relationship with their "owners" and even to have their children, some of the women considered themselves to be in love. The dynamic between all involved was as fascinating as it was disturbing. I was definitely presented with perspectives I had never before considered.

    Overall, this was a beautifully written honest look at a painful period in history, but also a story about friendship, hope, and family. While Wench is in no way a fast paced novel, it is still a page-turner. What Dolen Perkins-Valdez does so well is present the complexities of those relationships between slave-owner-friends-family. All the shades of gray as well as what is inherently right and wrong in these situations are explored as well as how each individual character felt and reacted. I found it to be thought provoking and emotional, yet altogether satisfying. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys southern historical fiction.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Artfully Told

    "Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdes if a fictional story which takes place examines the relationship between white masters and their concubines slaves. The story mostly takes place in the early 1850s at an Ohio vacation resort called Tawawa House (now Old Wilberforce University) .

    In the early 1850s Nathan Drayle brings his slave/mistress Lizzie to Tawawa House, a real (although no longer in existence) resort in which while Southern males did bring their black concubines for a "working vacation". This way the males could relax with their mistresses without those pesty Southern wives being around. Since Nathan brings Lizzie to Tawawa House annually, she develops a relationship with the other slaves/mistress Reenie, Sweet and Mawu.

    "Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdes centers around, and told by, a house slave named Lizzie who is the mistress of her owner Nathan Drayle. Nathan is a poor man who married to Francesca who is heiress to a rich Southern family.

    The book is an easy read but artfully told and well written story. The narrative is clean and sometime even lyrical. The characters are multi-dimensional, vivid and fully realized; surprisingly many of the minor characters are well developed as well. Perkins-Valdes made a courageous decision; she started out the book with her protagonist making an unpopular choice which frankly made her unlikeable almost immediately. Later in the novel the author focuses on how Lizzie and Nathan's relationship began and that's when we start understand our protagonist better.

    Through the supporting cast, Perkins-Valdes shows other aspects of master and slave/mistresses relationships. However no matter in which relationship the women are in, the author did a fantastic job of capturing the indignity of slavery. Not only are you your master's property but everyone else see fit to do whatever they want to you as well, often with little or no consequences. Together with the physical struggle, the emotional toll taken on the women is enormous. Not only are the women slaves, but being women they have even less rights even within the slave community. The only thing the women have is their ability to love themselves.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

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    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent - very emotional book

    A beautifully written story about a tragic time in our country. Valdez shows the courage and strength slave women needed to endure such a horific injustices in their lives.

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  • Posted January 14, 2011

    Very good....

    Made you want to keep turning pages...

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  • Posted December 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting take on the concept of love and slavery

    It took me a little while to really get into this book, in fact, it took me about a month to read it but once I got into it, it was hard for me to put it down. This novel has so many different themes:

    the inhumanity of slavery
    maternity and the sacrifices women make for their children
    race relations
    the importance of education
    friendships between women
    But I think the overwhelming theme (and the one that is probably most relevant to today's audience) is that women are worth more than their "lady parts." The main character, Lizzie, drives this point home at the end of the novel when she is thinking about the things she needs to teach her daughter so she could survive in a world where her skin and sex determined her worth:

    Never forget your name. Keep track of your years and how old you are. Don't be afraid to show how you feel. Learn a craft so you always have something to barter other than your private parts. (p. 238)

    Wow. This is a powerful statement that simply permeates the novel. The slave women are concubines who are treated as sexual playthings by their masters and scorned by their mistresses, yet, they try to carve out some semblance of love and respectability amongst themselves and others within the slave community.

    I'd recommend this novel as an additional reading source for a college level American history course. Tawawa House was a real place and the relationship described between the slave masters and the slave women is one that hasn't really been explored in other writings but could lead to some interesting in~class discussions (especially when considered alongside the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings).

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  • Posted September 26, 2010

    Highly recommend.

    I really enjoyed this book. After reading the reviews I wasn't sure of what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. It was an easy read and look forward to reading more from this author.

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Great Knowledge

    I did not understand Lizze until the end of the book, although she kept saying, she wanted her children to free, and she really thought the master would free her children until the end she learned that he had no intention to do that. Mawu was my hero she knew what she was and wanted to free her-self from that life of being a slave from the very beginning. The author in-sight was very vivid and I enjoyed this book it was a page turner for me. I think all young children should we this book it has very good education in this book. I like the way she did the years to give the reader ground to reflect on. I will love to see what she will do with her next novel. And I was glad to know what wench meant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

    Not what I hoped, but a pleasant read nonetheless.

    I am a big fan of "character study" type books. As a white woman raised in the 60's by middle class parents, I had hoped this book would provide insight into the thoughts and lives of women of another time and culture. While it did deliver on some levels, I found it quite shallow in character development. It read more like a narrative rather than "getting inside the brain" of these women to feel their thoughts, dreams and fears. While the four slave women are the main characters, it would have been more interesting to also explore the men they served. Their masters were as different as the slave women and the dynamics between them could have been written about in greater depth. On the other hand, I did enjoy the author's way of portraying these women's fierce devotion to their children. This was a welcome addition to the main storyline. It illustrates that mothers of every culture often place the well-being of their children above their own and will do almost anything to ensure their safety.

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  • Posted February 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read-Couldn't Put It Down!

    Wench is such an amazing book. The author has incredible descriptions of the characters and distinct features of the time period. The plot kept me up late at night reading because I couldn't put this book down! Can't wait to read another book by Perkins-Valdez.

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