Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Purchase - Linda Spalding - Guest Book Review

Published by Sandstone Press

Guest review by Mandy Jenkinson

Quaker widower Daniel Dickinson is driven by his community from his native Pennsylvania after he marries a young orphan Methodist girl following the death of his wife. He sets off to build a new life for his family in Virginia and almost by accident he acquires a young slave boy. This impulsive act sets off a chain of tragic and ever more complicated set of events that profoundly affects both his life and that of his children. Deeply horrified by slavery he yet finds himself caught up in its snares, and can never quite manage to break free.

This is an extremely powerful and moving story with some unforgettable characters. Daniel himself is a good and moral man, but everything he does somehow goes wrong. Whether that is due to any intrinsic weakness in his character, or whether it’s a destiny he can’t fight against, is left to the reader to decide. For all his good intentions, he causes irreparable harm to those who are dear to him. Set in pre-abolition America, it’s an evocative and atmospheric account of everyday slavery and its effect on slave-owners. 

There’s some raw and powerful writing here. The author’s commanding use of language makes for an unforgettable portrait of a time and a place. Skilfully paced, and often surprising, the story moves on to its inexorable end and explores how devastating the consequences of one split-second decision can be. It’s an unremittingly bleak novel, with very few moments of joy or redemption, even though there is love and loyalty to be found here as well. Serious themes of family, religion and conscience pervade every page and I found it both totally absorbing and totally compelling.

Loosely based on the author’s own ancestors, and painstakingly and thoroughly researched, this is a book that will remain with me for a long time, and one that I very much enjoyed. 

Many thanks to Mandy for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library. Mandy is an omnivorous reader who enjoys reviewing, for newbooks magazine as well as elsewhere, and enjoys discovering new authors.


  1. Fascinated by the Quaker community and liking the idea of a powerful story I'll be sure to add this to my wish list.

  2. This sounds really good.

    It does remind me of something. I read a lot about America's Founding Fathers, many of them, in particular Washington, Jefferson and Madison came to abhor slavery could but not find it during their lifetimes (Though Washington did upon his death) to free their slaves.

  3. This sounds like a fascinating read, I've added it to my 'must' list.
    Thanks to Mandy for telling us about it and to Lindsay for sharing it.


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