I have had this book for years now, evidentially procured from some sort of bookstore or library because there’s a sticker on the spine. I’ve read it and re-read it many times while home. This time, I re-read it in preparation for book club, theme of which is “a book from your childhood/young adulthood which talked about adulthood which, now that you are an adult, reads very differently.” Which is a long winded way of saying, things aren’t always what they seem when you were young.
So in that vein, what were my thoughts on this book, re-read for the thousandth time? Spoilers for a book that’s 62 (!) years old at this point and part of many school curriculums!
– Oh gosh, how young. When did the main characters in YA books get so young? When did I get so old? Once upon a time Kit seemed like she knew what she was doing–she sailed across the Caribbean by herself, with everything she owned! And now I was shocked to note that she’s meant to be 16 at the start of the novel (maybe 17). William Ashby is 19. What are all these children doing getting married and thinking of moving in together?
– I’m not sure what I think of period-“appropriate” mentions of the sins of America’s past, but I was surprised by how discomfited I was at language that I knew was coming–Kit’s careless mention of the sacrifice of selling her “Negro handmaid” to secure passage, her constant comparisons between her chores and work that “not even high class slaves in the Barbados would do.” It’s tempered by the proto-abolitionist views of Nate, I suppose. It’s never established that amongst her many changes over the course of the novel that she comes to recant her views on enslaving human beings, and that takes some of the go get ’em shine off of her as a character
– I do find Kit entirely realistic in her attempts to adapt. The novel takes place over an extended period of time, something I often get grumpy that stories don’t do (let characters develop over time). She’s there for an entire calendar year. She gives the cold dreary New England life an entire year, and tries her best to be both herself and fit in, to be both truthful and grateful. Is she still Kit if she becomes Katherine Ashby? Obviously we as readers know that the answer is no, and it’s nice to see her come around to it as well. She does eventually get her cake and get to eat it too, in a way that’s perhaps a bit too pat and quickly tied up. A part of me has always wanted her to have re-met Nate in the Barbados, where she’s on solid footing. But I suppose this way she got to keep all her pretty dresses.