The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw

I know this should be a Sunday Interview, but since I already interviewed the author of ‘The Freedom of Jenny‘ (you can find the interview here) I thought I’d finally review her historical novel, today. I deeply regret not reading this book sooner, but unfortunately it got buried among a mountain of other TBR books. When I ran across it the other day, I knew I needed to read it right away and I’m glad I did.  🙂

Jenny was born into a life of slavery. Her father was a slave on a different farm and was only allowed to visit on the weekends. Jenny, her mom & siblings lived elsewhere because they were on loan to a neighbouring farm by her father’s owner. Jenny and her family suffered many hardships, but it was her father’s dream to be free, despite her mother’s reservations about leaving the relative safety of the farm.

Slave-breakers were always a threat, capturing African Americans they might find along the road, whether they’d been freed or not, and selling them or re-selling them to whomever they wanted. Jenny’s mom worried that, even though her husband’s owner sold him his freedom, that the slave-breakers would take them and sell them to someone not nearly as kind as their current owners.

I think the author did a marvelous job of representing the life and emotions of American slaves. Her characters felt real and I was able to rejoice with them and cry at their sorrow.  Since I love history, I was thrilled with all the details that made the time period come alive for me. It’s very obvious that she has done her research and described it in such an effortless way that the reader is swept away to the mid-eighteen hundreds.

I’ve always had great sympathy for those poor souls, who were subjected to slavery and bigotry, so I was drawn to Jenny’s story. At the back of the book, the author states that she was inspired to write her fictional tale based on the real life experiences of Sylvia Stark, a slave who was emancipated in Missouri and made the journey to Salt Spring Island in what is now the province of British Columbia. I was thrilled by the fact that Governor Douglas, Earl of Selkirk and head of the Hudson’s Bay Company, did the same thing for emancipated slaves that he did with the Scottish crofters – brought them to Canada and provided land for them.

I highly recommend ‘The Freedom of Jenny‘ to anyone who are interested in the plight of the people taken from their native homes, transported to American and treated like cattle. 🙂

14 comments on “The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw

  1. That looks to be a wonderful book. I am also appalled at man’s inhumanity to his fellow man and slavery is such a profound example of that. I must put this on my TBR list

    • My creative writing teacher always said the key to a good story is the conflict. Let’s hope stories like this will also show that everyone should be treated equally no matter our differences. 🙂

  2. We visited several interesting sites on our trip to south Carolina including a plantation that had a preserved area of slave quarters and included a lot about the role of slaves in plantation life and development of the south. It was a lot like Lower Fort Garry in Manitoba. It was appalling to stand in one of the tiny houses and read the names and stories of the individuals that had really lived there.

    • Unfortunately, they were a part of history and their trials and tribulations shouldn’t be forgotten. It must be like standing in the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii and remembering those who lost their lives at that spot.

    • I don’t think it was common. I’d have to check the diaries on which the story was inspired to see if it was something that was mentioned.

      Since all family members were technically owned by the father’s owner and just on loan to the other farmer, and since this particular owner was a little more sympathetic to his slaves, I assume it’s possible that such an arrangement could have been made. I will see if Julie can comment about the plausibility of this happening. 🙂

  3. This looks like a great book–one I would enjoy reading. Sometimes I look at the books around our little school library and pick out ones like this to read. Just fascinating. It’s almost hard to believe that slavery happened, that we humans can do this to each other.

  4. One thing I love about books and literature is that the “distant” past is made to seem relevant today, so that it is never forgotten, in a way simply studying history cannot. When people ask me why reading matters , a reason (amongst other things, of course) like that is always high on my list. An author who represented what those oppressed people were feeling must have done a great job.

    • Julie did a wonderful job of representing her characters. I think that’s why I wanted to write about history, too, so I could make it more understandable and make the reader feel what the characters feel more than simply learning facts and dates.

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