Thursday, 16 July 2015

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim, reviwed by Debbie Bennett

This is just beautiful. The Yellow Crocus of the title represents Spring in nineteenth century America. And Spring is all about new beginnings, new starts, growth and freedom – which is all the more poignant when you live on a plantation where the workers are negro slaves.

Lisbeth is white and privileged, but grows up with a closer bond to her black wet-nurse Mattie than she ever had with her stiff and proper mother. Lisbeth is expected to be educated and marry well, but her childish innocence can’t reconcile her circumstances with her regular visits to the negro quarters and her developing relationship with Mattie.

Told from both Lisbeth and Mattie’s points of view, this is an exploration of life on both sides as Mattie tries to explain her life and Lisbeth realises how her own world is built on a foundation of cruelty. What’s all the more telling is how Lisbeth’s parents believe this to be the norm – they’re not intentionally bad people, but they genuinely believe that this is the way life is and that they “look after” their negro slaves with their best interests at heart.

And as Lisbeth grows up, times are changing and she is forced to make hard choices. Some of her friends have become abolitionists and Lisbeth must decide where her loyalties lie.

I loved this book. It’s one of those fly-on-the-wall stories that depicts the details of a way of life long gone, complete with the values of the time. It makes no apologies for the way things were, and there are no political undertones or tales of morality. It simply was this way and we see it through both white and black eyes. Fascinating and absorbing.

You can find Yellow Crocus on Amazon UK or Amazon US.