Friday 5 February 2016

The Invention of Wings // Book Review

Now if you know me, you'll probably know that my favourite book is The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. I first read it when I was around thirteen, and it resonated with me in ways I didn't really understand back then. But I knew I loved it, and I still have my original charity-shop copy, and it sits in pride of place on my desk. I talk about it all the time, and when anybody asks for a book recommendation it's the first to roll off my tongue.

But this post isn't about that book, it's about Sue Monk Kidd's latest offering - The Invention of Wings (2014). I bought it without even reading the blurb, because I knew I'd love it. And I did; I love it like people love their pets, I think. I want to protect it, show it off, sleep with it under my pillow. I want to read and re-read it until the pages have tear stains and grease marks and probably little rips. Hey, I never said I take great care of my books. I love them too hard.

The Invention of Wings switches between two POVs - Sarah Grimké, and a slave named Handful. Set in four parts, each spanning different time periods during the 1800s, we see both girls grow up together and grow apart. We get to know them so intimately and so unapologetically that they felt, to me, like a part of my life. Every time I had to put the book down (to eat, sleep, work etc) I missed them. I wanted to know how they were, what they were doing, where their day was headed.

The story is a beautifully-written, heartbreaking and intelligent look at the South (of America) in the 1800s - and the gap between black people and white people. The Grimké sisters, Sarah and her younger sister Angelina, were real life abolitionists and members of the women's suffrage movement. Honestly, I'd never heard of them; but from the description of them in this book I want to know and learn everything about them. When Sarah is gifted a slave (Handful) at the age of 11, she is horrified and so sparks her destiny: her wish to abolish slavery, to create a platform for white people and black people to stand on equal footing.

Handful is bold, mischievous and intelligent - Sarah is fierce, determined, if a little shy, and desperate to change the world no matter how many times she is told a woman can't do that. Guided by the Fates, by religion, by the people she encounters, Sarah really does begin to change the world (or at least, America) with her sister by her side. Handful loses her mother, gains a limp, becomes the most talented seamstress.

If I could sum up this work of art in one quote, it would be 'My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it's the other way round.' - Handful says this to Sarah, and in essence this is the book. The differences between the two girls and their dreams, their destinies, their wishes and their realities.

Some liken it to The Help, but I don't think so - I think Sue Monk Kidd has written something so far beyond that. I think, maybe, I like it more than The Secret Life of Bees. I think it's beautiful, and intelligent, and heart-warming as much as it's heartbreaking. I think it's poetic, it's gritty, it's fascinating and it's lovely. So so so lovely.

Have you read any of Sue Monk Kidd's books? Let me know what you think!

Ps, this is 'a book based on a true story' for my Book Review Challenge, which I truly am hoping to complete some time this year...


  1. I've always wanted to read the secret life of bees! I'm going to garb a copy of that and the invention of wings ^_^ thanks for the recommendation! X

  2. Well now I know what I want to read next! :)

  3. I need some new books in my life so this recommendation is a total yes from me :D

  4. I read The Secret Life of Bees once, I think in the first year of Uni, but I don't really remember it much although I do remember it being a good read. I definitely think I'll be adding both books to my read list because I think they sound fab!

    Suitcase and Sandals Blog XX