This book introduces Belle, who was born into slavery bondage. She is the daughter of a Negro slave women and the plantation master. Her appearance is that of a white woman, and she is kept as a slave for thirty years of her life until she escapes to her freedom. She tells her life’s journey from slavery to freedom and recounts her losses along the way.
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The book begins in nausea, depression and disappear. We learn immediately that Mae, Belle’s mother, the young women who narrates her story in the first person, was born into slavery, was sick in the head, lived in a cabin off by herself and was regularly raped by her master, Massa Roberts. Massa Roberts had two sons, the eldest, Robert, lusted after Belle and his youngest son, James, wanted to protect her from being a tool of his family. As a young innocent child Belle saw Massa Roberts raping her mother, bust in the cabin, but was swiftly told to ‘Get Out.’ Belle had unduly saw what foretold what she would face from her brother, Maas Robert’s eldest son. She, as soon as reaching teenage years, was raped by Massa Roberts’ son, Robert. Objecting in a desperate moment he was his sister Robert swiftly negated any filial relation, beat her, and reminded her that she was his property. Her grandmother, Rose, pressed her to become resigned to her fate and see that misery could be far worse than what she was experiencing. Despite falling in love with a fellow black slave, who could only visit her in a clandestine way (if they were caught both would be beaten, killed or possibly sold) Belle remained hopeful of a better life. All the while, she remained raped. No viable family becomes possible. Belle avoided the harshest reality of slavery because she of light skin – mulatto. She nonetheless witnessed the terrors of the brutality of slavery all around her, even encamped in her mother’s old cabin. At twenty-four she became a mother of her half-brother’s child; her only hope of escaping the fate of her mother was with the aid of James and the underground railroad. Eventually, coming to live in England through a series of fascinating adventures, Belle lives out her life using the skills she gained in spite of slavery. The author contends that this story came to her in a dreams. If so, her dreams were very vivid and accounts a story of tortured judgements, for example, considering Massa Roberts a good master, arguably needed to maintain some sense of contentment. It also accounts for the triumph of Belle’s tenacity. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s Within the Plantation Household is a wonderful history of the sort of households build solely on torturers, fractured relations, secrets, silences, abuses and lies. We see all of these in this novel. In addition we see what it is to build a new household built on conviviality.