The Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim | review

Moments after Lisbeth is born, she’s taken from her mother and handed over to an enslaved wet nurse, Mattie, a young mother separated from her own infant son in order to care for her tiny charge. Thus begins an intense relationship that will shape both of their lives for decades to come. Though Lisbeth leads a life of privilege, she finds nothing but loneliness in the company of her overwhelmed mother and her distant, slave-owning father. As she grows older, Mattie becomes more like family to Lisbeth than her own kin and the girl’s visits to the slaves’ quarters—and their lively and loving community—bring them closer together than ever. But can two women in such disparate circumstances form a bond like theirs without consequence? This deeply moving tale of unlikely love traces the journey of these very different women as each searches for freedom and dignity. (source: Goodreads)

I bought The Yellow Crocus ebook in January, but just recently got to read it. I’ve seen it mentioned here and there, and when I saw that it was only $2.50, I decided I wanted to see what this book is really about.

There are two main characters in this book, Lisbeth and her wet nurse Mattie. They come from two different worlds, in spite of their close relationship. The author clearly wanted to portray both these worlds: the easy life of the slave owner, and the hard life of the slaves, in mid 1800s Virginia.

At the beginning of the story, the author explains everything in detail, but as the story goes on, she focuses more on the narrative aspect. This made me believe that she is not constant in her writing style. Even though it doesn’t affect the content, it still felt strange.

At some point in time, the lives of the two protagonists part ways, and from that point on, the narrative jumps from Mattie’s perspective to that of Lisbeth. This was another technique which helped highlight the dissimilarity of the two ways of life and the hardships that come with both. What I loved most about the book was exactly this: the portrayal of both worlds, just as they are. Neither of them is perfect. In this context, the paradox is that white people considered themselves free and privileged, when, in fact, they had little to no liberty when it came to the most important experience of human life: love. They tricked themselves in thinking that one must certainly be happy when he has a great piece of land and working hands. The book deals with all the implications of that mentality, but I won’t elaborate, so I won’t spoil the pleasure of finding out the details yourselves.

The book also touches on the subject of abolitionism. The historic context is particularly important to the development of the narrative, and it shows a lot about humankind and its progress.

I can’t say what I don’t like about this book, except maybe some cliche elements here and there. It certainly isn’t revolutionary, and I didn’t find it particularly heartbreaking or enlightening either. It was an enjoyable read, but not more than that. I probably wouldn’t read it again.

It’s a story especially about woman suffering, and I found it very emotional at certain times. It is also a quick read, so it is the perfect book if you want a beautiful story, that can be read in a short time.

It’s 3 out of 5 stars for this one.


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