Natasha Boyd comes to the blog today with her new release, set in colonial America and retelling the story of Eliza Lucas, a young woman in South Carolina and her struggles to make her family’s plantations profitable despite the odds. Narrated by Saskia Maaleveld, please read on for my review and check out the trailer for
The Indigo Girl
Taking the period of 1739 through 1744, we are following the story of Eliza Lucas, eldest daughter left to fend for the fortunes of her family as her father has returned to Antigua in hopes of advancement. Three plantations make up the family’s holdings: each run by an overseer to manage the slaves, and each in need of a profitable crop to keep the family afloat. With her two brothers at school, and a mother who is more interested in returning to “civilization” and focused on Eliza’s potential success in the marriage mart, this young woman’s belief in her own abilities to take the reins of the family in her own hands is remarkable. Particularly when, at this time, women are limited in their possibilities and pursuits.
It’s never easy for her, but when she uses her own interests in botany, and realizes that Indigo dye is highly prized and paid for by the French, she sets out to learn all she can about the plant, it’s process and the extraction of the pigment. Relying on a family friend and the family lawyer, she begins her investigations, and this takes her into formerly unknown and untrodden areas. Previously unheard of ideas: adequate (near luxurious in comparison) housing for the slaves, schoolrooms, teaching slaves to read, actually seeing them as people who are integral to the process. These were all Eliza. Much to the dismay of her mother and her constant, if eventually ineffective attempts to constrain what she sees as a willful and unmanageable child. Taking information from historic documents and Eliza’s letters, Boyd has brought her to life in a way that bring history alive. From the technical and scientific moments in creating the indigo, to the friendships and struggles that Eliza faced, her compassion and openness mixed with heavy doses of determination and self-awareness turn this story into an engaging and wholly evocative story. Allowing the sights, sounds and personalities to shine.
Narration for this story is provided by Saskia Maarleveld, and her voice was perfectly suited to voice Eliza, with crisp enunciation, soft nuances that hinted to her youth, and the clear presentation of her own personality that showed the strength within. Each character was given a distinct tone and pace, with a subtle yet distinct emotional overlay that helped to fix their place in society and the story. Friendships that begin tentatively grow and change in the interactions as the trust is built, and characters that are meant to be ‘difficult’ to engage or empathize with are given that ‘tone’ in her presentation. Adding to the engagement of the text is Maarleveld’s clear appreciation for the text and moments as the unfold: giving readers moments that ebb and flow with the story, keeping the struggles, triumphs and moments alive.
Stars: Overall 5 Narration 5 Story 5
Title: The Indigo Girl
Author: Natasha Boyd
Genre: American, Botany, Colonial Era, Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Romantic Elements, Slavery
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Published by: Blackstone Audio, Blackstone Publishing
Published on: 3 October, 2017
Source: Blackstone Audio
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 32 minutes
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An incredible story of dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.
The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family's three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.
Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it's the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it's impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return -- against the laws of the day -- she will teach the slaves to read.
So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.
Based on historical documents, including Eliza's letters, this is a historical fiction account of how a teenage girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today. Although largely overlooked by historians, the accomplishments of Eliza Lucas influenced the course of US history. When she passed away in 1793, President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.
This book is set between 1739 and 1744, with romance, intrigue, forbidden friendships, and political and financial threats weaving together to form the story of a remarkable young woman whose actions were before their time: the story of the indigo girl.
A copy of this title was provided via Blackstone Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: