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Review: Kindred

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Kindred is the gripping story of a twentieth century’s couples’ experience of slavery in Maryland, America. The story revolves around the main character Dana and her husband Kevin as they are transported back and forth through time. It explores the injustices and brutality of the 19th Century, touching on relationships, separation, family, entitlement and Black history. The characters illustrate the resilience of people held in slavery and the suffering so many African Americans experienced in order for later generations to survive. Although, the main theme centres on the slavery of Black people in America, an interesting aspect of the novel is the futuristic element. This is used to contrast the past with the modern day.

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The author Octavia E. Butler provides an insight into the lives of not just Black Americans, but also White Americans during this period and touches on the healthcare issues encountered at a time when medical science was not so advanced. Although published in 1979, the themes are still relevant today. The novel highlights the advancements made particularly in terms of racial equality. Simultaneously, and perhaps not intentionally the reader is prompted to think about the inequality and discrimination that remain in today’s world.

There are many interesting and complex personalities in this story. Undoubtedly the reader will be drawn to the main character Dana and her distant relative Alice. We first meet Alice through the eyes of the protagonist as Dana is traveling back in time. Alice’s role in the book is pivotal, she is a strong and impressive woman, yet cannot escape her circumstances. Any reader will be hard pressed not to sympathise with her.

This book highlights the love, compassion and respect that people have for their fellow men and women through the example of Dana’s husband, Kevin. His character contrasts greatly with that of other white characters in the book, such as Weylin the plantation owner. The contrasts in characters and the ideas communicated through Dana raise various philosophical questions. Without revealing too much, Kindred is a page turner, it is entertaining yet informative and without doubt a must read.

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