The Invention of Wings is historical fiction, about the lives of two women in nineteenth century South Carolina. Hetty, or “Handful” is a plantation slave child, given as a gift to Sarah Grimke on her eleventh birthday. Sarah is a remarkably forward thinking girl who wants no part of owning another human being. The story parallels both of their lives, and the ways in which they are not satisfied with the role that society wants them to play.
I am having a really hard time even trying to explain this book or how I felt about it. It isn’t a new book, it came out in 2014, and I would not have voluntarily picked it up based on the subject matter. But it is this month’s pick for my book club, and I am not ever going to be the one of us who ends up sheepishly admitting that they didn’t finish the assignment (okay, I was that person one time), so I had to tackle it.
Even though the subject matter is very rough, the book is not a hard read – I swear I could finish Anna Karenina if someone would just re-publish it with 4 page chapters – and much of the story is quite interesting like the historical details of Charleston and the way it weaves in historical figures such as Lucretia Mott. I was surprised to learn that I had never heard of Sarah Grimke, or her sister Angelina, and when I realized that this was based on actual people I got a bit over the feeling that the characters were too anachronistic.
Overall, this is a beautiful story, with vivid characters that have deep longing in them. Even while being noble, all of the characters are deeply flawed, and I loved that about it. The Invention of Wings is sometimes difficult to read, obviously because of the subjects, but I really liked it. May I please go back to my memoirs and thrillers now please?
Grade – A-