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Een meisje uit Barbados (1958)

door Elizabeth George Speare

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9,564192632 (4.03)302
In 1687 in Connecticut, Kit Tyler, feeling out of place in the Puritan household of her aunt, befriends an old woman considered a witch by the community and suddenly finds herself standing trial for witchcraft.
Onlangs toegevoegd doorbrooklinebookbarn, CaseyMacaulay, hannah815, a2494, rahgsu, karimagon, elmernite, Allyoopsi, IVLeafClover, besloten bibliotheek
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1-5 van 191 worden getoond (volgende | toon alle)
I've been out of my mother's house for 20 years, but she's still trying to get me to take my stuff. Most recently, she brought me this blast from the past, which mostly holds up. This might have been one of the first stories that made me care about religious tolerance and understand the value of kindness over authoritarianism. Obviously it's still a relevant story 60 years later. ( )
  IVLeafClover | Jun 21, 2022 |
This is the sum total of what I remembered about The Witch of Blackbird Pond from when I first read it about twenty years ago: the main character jumped out of a boat and swam, which started people thinking she was a witch; and she ran away into the woods at night at some point. That was it. So clearly this book didn't make as big of an impression on me as, say, Holes or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Kit Taylor grew up in Barbados with her grandfather in the 1600s. They were wealthy Royalists. When her grandfather dies, Kit pays off his debts and heads up north to move in with her aunt, a Puritan in a small town in Connecticut. She's not prepared for anything: the plainness, the seriousness, the religion, the constant hard work, the cold. The Wood family takes her in, but Uncle Matthew and Aunt Rachel already have two girls--vivacious Judith and quiet Mercy, who has an unspecified disability that requires a crutch and somehow keeps her entirely homebound. A third girl, particularly one with seven trunks of silk dresses and talk of reading books other than the bible, is just another burden, even if she is family.

Though Kit is spoiled and knows nothing about working a household or planting and harvesting, she does pitch in and slowly learn how to work around the house and the fields. I appreciated this aspect of realism. Instead of loudly flouting rules and refusing to do menial women's work, Kit keeps her disgruntlement at her changed station in life to herself, is glad for the chance to help earn her keep by working with Mercy to teach "dame school" (teaching children to read so that they can go to grammar school), and ultimately steps up to help keep the household running in a crisis. Kit is anything but a static character, and the mistakes she makes are a combination of totally innocent ignorance and trying to do the right thing without a Puritan filter on the world.

The "witch" of the title is Hannah, an old Quaker woman who lives by Blackbird Pond (which I don't think is really even mentioned--more attention is given to the nearby river, with occasionally floods Hannah's house). An old widow once cast out of Boston and literally branded a Quaker--now the local Puritans think she must be a witch. Kit meets Hannah after crying in the fields near Blackbird Pond after one of her all-too-common slipups seems to have closed down the "dame school". In Hannah, she finds a lonely, kind, sympathetic, and understanding friend. Nat, a sailor Kit met on the ship from Barbados to Connecticut, checks in on Hannah, and Kit brings in Prudence, a neglected little girl who finds food and a space to learn how to read and write at Hannah's house.

And then we have the boys. I get annoyed at love triangles, but here we practically have a love hexagon. There's sailor Nat, already mentioned. John Hopgood (Hopkins? Hop-something) Holbrook is a doctor and minister-in-training who Kit meets on the boat up the river, though his personality seems to be subsumed by his instructor. And then there's William Ashby, the little village's most eligible bachelor, who looks like the perfect match for Judith until he sets his hat on exotic Kit. Judith won't be left out, so she decides she will marry John. Problem: though John also seems a bit into Kit at first, he's actually mutually in love with Mercy (how this happens is never totally explained). John's bullied into an engagement with Judith. Everyone assumes Kit will marry William. Nat is jealous.

Surprisingly, though, I did not find this entire mess totally off-putting. And that, I think, is because Speare did not make anyone in the Wood family a villain. We're sympathetic to everyone, from Kit who finds William a bit of a bore but feels like she has to marry him to get something like her old life back and get out of her aunt and uncle's hair; to Judith who's a perfect match to William but stays friendly family to Kit instead of making her life a living hell; to Mercy, who will give up what little she has for Judith's happiness, even if it's the person she loves. These may be teenagers, but their decisions are as adult as you'd expect of that time period, when people had to grow up quickly; yes, there are impulsive decisions, but they're also practical. So I never got super annoyed by the tangle even though it should have driven me nuts.

Anyway, as winter sets in a sickness starts going around the village, killing several people. And of course, it must be the work of the devil--and, of course, the devil must be in that old Quaker woman...and maybe that strange girl from Barbados, too. Kit and Nat get Hannah to safety, but then the town turns its sights on Kit. A trial seems to be going about as well for her as it did for the "witches" in Salem...until little Prudence comes to her rescue.

The book is a bit of a jumble of simplistic--very linear storyline, only one truly nasty named character, everyone happily paired off, all's well that ends well--and complex, with an awful lot of names of side characters (some of them real historical figures) thrown around and a peripheral political conflict between the Royalists and the Puritans that can be a bit hard to follow if you're not at least a little familiar with Connecticut's colonial history, and maybe England's Civil War.

Now, there are a few places where this story is definitely dated, and I mean that beyond the sexism and other -isms you'd expect of the period. The most remarkable to me was that no one ever mentions the source of Kit's grandfather's wealth, though presumably it's sugar. Speare has Nat say that it is a family point of pride that they never engage in the slave trade, but that's it. Even for an older book, I was surprised that the topic was dropped with so little discussion.

Welp, I guess I'm getting out of writing a longer review because it took me so long to write this one that I've forgotten my other points. *shrugs*

Quote Roundup

p. viii) From the introduction to the , by Karen Cushman:
Countless young women cherished [The Witch of Blackbird Pond] for the model it offered readers tired of books in which teen girls were, as my friend the Reverend Robbie Cranch put it, "portrayed as deferential flirts or swooning idiots." Kit is neither an idiot nor a flirt. She is lonely and confused but is also brave, compassionate, determined, and resilient.
An excellent summary of her character, all qualities that I appreciated...but now I want to add, too, that she's not a modern girl stuck in a 17th-century world. I feel like kids/YA went through a phase where its young girls rebelled at their societies in an entirely unrealistic way. Kit's actions and reactions felt more authentic, to me.

p. 23) Long one here, but it's most of what's said about slavery. Kit's been complaining that Nat's family's ship still smells like horses, their last cargo.
Nat's indignation found vent in scorn. "Maybe you think it would smell prettier with a hold full of human bodies, half of them rotting in their chains before anyone knew they were dead!" [Whoa, that came out of nowhere...]
Kat recoiled, as much from his angry tone as from the repulsive words. "What are you talking about? People--down in the hold?"
"I suppose you never knew about slaves on Barbados?"
"Of course I knew. We own--we used to own--more than a hundred. How else could you work a plantation?"
"How did you think they got there? Did you fancy they traveled from Africa in private cabins like yours?"
She had never thought about it at all. [I...don't quite find that possible.] "But don't you have slaves in America?"
"Yes, to our shame! Mostly down Virginia way. But there are plenty of fine folk like you here in New England who'll pay a fat price for black flesh without asking any questions how it got here. If my father would consent to bring back just one load of slaves we would have had our new ketch [ship] by this summer. But we Eatons, we're almighty proud that our ship has a good honest stink of horses!"
Nat was gone again. What a touchy temper he had! She hadn't meant to insult his precious ship. Why did he deliberately turn everything to her disadvantage?
The book was published in 1958, so maybe it was wildly radical and direct for the time to address slavery in any way. These days it feels like a loose thread left hanging, like something that ought to have come up again (for having been inserted so forcefully) but doesn't. Kit doesn't see any Black people in New England, and aside from a complaint about selling her personal slave, that's the last we hear of the entire practice. It almost felt weirder that it came up at all than if Speare had ignored it entirely.

p. 64) "And bless our sister in her weakness and affliction." Whom did he mean? Heavens, was he talking about Mercy? Had the man no perception at all? ... After a few days in this household Kit had ceased to be aware of Mercy's lameness. No one in the family ever referred to it. Mercy certainly did not consider herself afflicted. She did a full day's work and more. Moreover, Kit had soon discovered that Mercy was the pivot about whom the whole household moved. ... Mercy weak! Why, the man could not even use his eyes!
This felt like another piece of good-intentioned commentary that didn't quite land. Kit, of course, cannot speak to whether Mercy feels "afflicted", and something going unremarked doesn't mean it's ignored or insignificant. Mercy might do hard work around the house, but she never leaves it, not even for church. I find it hard to believe that any disability that can be assisted by a simple crutch would stop a Puritan from going to church, never mind going down to the fields to help plant or harvest. She doesn't even go to the corn-husking party, which definitely doesn't require perfect use of both legs! The text seems to be showing a lot more than Speare is telling.

p. 90) Kit is upset when she does something that is, to me, truly horrifying:
She did not stop until she reached the Great Meadow. There...[she] fell face down in the grass, her whole body wrenched with sobs. The grass rustled over her head and hid her from sight...
No! Kit! There are...ticks in the grass!

p. 117) "Hannah's magic cure for every ill," Nat had said. "Blueberry cake and a kitten." Kit smiled to see it working its charm on Prudence. But there was an invisible ingredient that made the cure unfailing. The Bible name for it was love.

p. 124-131) Okay, I admit it, this cold-hearted crocodile found the scene in which Kit and Nat fix Hannah's roof and talk in heavy-handed metaphors about tropical birds being pecked at and bullied by New England crows (and about books, and politics, and loyalty, and friendships) pretty sweet and romantic.

p. 146) The maple tree in front of the doorstep burned like a gigantic red torch. The oaks along the roadway glowed yellow and bronze. The fields stretched like a carpet of jewels, emerald and topaz and garnet. Everywhere she walked the color shouted and sang around her. The dried brown leaves crackled beneath her feet and gave of a delicious smoky fragrance. No one had ever told her about autumn in New England. The excitement of it beat in her blood. Every morning she woke with a new confidence and buoyancy she could not explain. In October any wonderful unexpected thing might happen.
Ah, this makes me nostalgic.

p. 152) "Don't worry, Mother. The men can take care of the government."
Ugh. Was that totally necessary, Speare?

p. 221) "All these years you been telling me our child was half-witted. Why, she's smart as a whip. I bet it warn't much of a trick to teach her to read."
Goodwife Cruff's jaw dropped. For one moment she was struck utterly dumb, and in that moment her husband stepped into his rightful place. [Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. UGH.] There was a new authority in his voice.
"All my life I've wished I could read. If I'd had a son, I'd of seen to it he learned his letters. Well, this is a new country over here, and who says it may not be just as needful for a woman to read as a man?"
It might have been a nice sentiment...but that rank statement right before knocked all the shine off it.
( )
  books-n-pickles | May 24, 2022 |
"Yet the spring air held a sadness too, sharper than all the loneliness of winter."
  roseandisabella | Mar 18, 2022 |
1506
  chell3 | Oct 29, 2021 |
2261
  chell3 | Oct 29, 2021 |
1-5 van 191 worden getoond (volgende | toon alle)

» Andere auteurs toevoegen (6 mogelijk)

AuteursnaamRolType auteurWerk?Status
Speare, Elizabeth Georgeprimaire auteuralle editiesbevestigd
Hurt, Mary BethVertellerSecundaire auteursommige editiesbevestigd
Moser, BarryIllustratorSecundaire auteursommige editiesbevestigd
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In 1687 in Connecticut, Kit Tyler, feeling out of place in the Puritan household of her aunt, befriends an old woman considered a witch by the community and suddenly finds herself standing trial for witchcraft.

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