A Million Nightingales

A Million Nightingales

Book - 2006
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A haunting, beautifully written novel set in early-nineteenth-century Louisiana: the tale of a slave girl's journeyemotional and physicalfrom captivity to freedom. Susan Straight has been called "a writer of exceptional gifts and grace" (Joyce Carol Oates). In A Million Nightingales she brings those gifts to bear on the story of Moinette, daughter of an African mother and a white father she never knew. While her mother cares for the plantation linens, Moinette tends to the master's daughter, which allows her to eavesdrop on lessons. She also learns that she is property, and at fourteen she is sold, separated from her mother without a chance to say goodbye. Heartbroken and terrified, and with a full understanding of what she will risk, Moinette begins almost immediately to prepare herself for the moment when she will escape. It is Moinette's own voice that we hearbright, rhythmic, observant, and altogether captivatingas she describes her journey through a world of brutality, sexual violence, and loss. Quick to see the patterns of French, American, and African life play out around her, Moinette makes her way from sugarcane fields through mysterious bayous to the streets of Opelousas, where the true meaning of freedom emerges from the bonds of love. An uncommonly rich novel, brimming with event and character, A Million Nightingales is a powerful confirmation of the remarkable novelist we have in Susan Straight.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2006.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780375423642
Branch Call Number: STRAIGHT
Characteristics: 340 pages ; 25 cm.


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Jan 21, 2014

As the story begins, Moinette is a 14-year-old slave on a Louisiana plantation. She is "yellow" (i.e., of mixed race), and has always lived with only her mother in le quartier (slave quarters), but is one day moved into the main house to be the personal handmaiden and hairdresser to the owner's teenage daughter, Céphaline. When Céphaline succumbs to disease, Moinette is only a reminder to her parents of their loss, and without warning Moinette is uprooted from the only life she has known.

Many nights I did not get enough sleep because, while reading in bed, I simply could not stop reading. There are many, many bite-sized sections within each chapter, each tantalizingly entreating, Oh, you know you have time to read just one more tiny, tiny piece! Look how small the next passage is! (repeat 53x) I appreciated the author's skill at storytelling in such a way that I was unable to guess what was going to happen next -- that I was even conscious of this made me aware of how even original plots are often somewhat transparent. A Million Nightingales is heartbreaking, but Moinette also has her triumphs, small and large.

Dec 24, 2013

It was a little hard going at first because the writing is very stream of consciousness and disjointed, but after a chapter or two I had the rhythm of it. Moinette is a high colour (half white, half black) slave in Louisiana before the Americans buy the area from France. She is sold when she is fourteen, and constantly yearns to be reunited with her mother. Moinette has an inquiring mind and is forever trying to make sense of things. How can she be an animal and her owners animals, and still not be equal? How are they different? Why are they different? The story contained a lot of detail about the times and kept me interested to the end.


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