Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson starts just as the the Revolutionary war begins. Isabel, a thirteen year old girl, and her younger sister, fight for freedom. After the death of their owner, they are sold to a New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the two sisters. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the patriots... he encourages her to spy on her new owners, who know details of british invasion plans. Although she is reluctant at first, she then realizes that this could be the key to freedom, for her, and her sister. This book, honestly, brought me to tears. The author brings you into a whole new world. It was so powerful, and I, throughout the entire book, felt as though I was Isabel, and I was going through the troubles that she and her sister went through. I think, the overall theme would be “ Struggling to get free is the price of freedom.” Throughout the entire book Isabel fights for her freedom, and struggles. Isabel said in the book, “The burned - over district looked like the inside of me. It was hard to tell where one stopped and the other started. I feared my wits had been melted by the flames, twisted and charred” This quote said a bit about the setting, and the theme. The theme, honestly, is clued through the entire book. I love this theme. It almost tells a story, right in that one sentence. I recommend this book to everyone that loves true stories, and love getting a little teary eyed.
Review By: Quinnell
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durhamm, June 29, 2012 (view all comments by durhamm)
The “genre-fication” of writers like Laurie Halse Anderson frustrates me so much because it blocks a large chunk of passionate readers from great literature. Chains is exemplary of Anderson’s rather incredible power of humanization. I mean, Anderson is a white woman, the daughter of a pastor, who writes in the perspective of a slave girl during the Revolutionary War and I felt as if I were friends with her protagonist, Isabel. Isabel was such a strong, believable character and I felt what I imagined her feeling and was drawn into her small, complex life completely. This is a great book dubbed “YA” or “Young Adult” but it is not only for young people but for anyone interested in creative rethinking and humanization of history. The plot of Chains is pretty simple, it’s about the status of slavery and the theory of slavery in the backdrop of the Revolutionary War. The history Anderson uses is sound. She gave heart to the archaic and quaint and anyone reading this book is bound to learn more about the strange hypocrisies and ironies in the wonderful and often horrible story of the young years of the United States. Isabel’s story is riveting and painful, her voice in Anderson’s translation is a voice all Americans, young and old, should know and treasure.
I did lend this book to three young sisters (11, 12, and 14) at my workplace. I haven’t heard back from them about how they enjoyed it. I’m a little worried how the youngest will relate to Isabel’s story, there’s some seriously difficult subject matter in the book, but I’m confident that with guidance from those older they will be able to step into Isabel’s world and grow empathy and understanding from the book and gain tools for their own world. Further than that, despite the pain in the story, I think they’ll have a fun time reading the book on this rainy weekend.
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“Melancholy held me hostage, and the bees built a hive of sadness in my soul,” are the words spoken by a slave named Isabel. Many of us know what slavery is: African Americans who were brought from Africa, treated poorly, owned, and put hard to work. But what most of us don’t know is what slavery was like through the eyes of a slave. In the book Chains, Anderson shows us just this with intense scenes and pages that will have you on the edge of your seat. Isabel is a slave who has just been bought to the Lockton family who happen to be Loyalists at the time of the Revolutionary War. Since she is owned by Loyalists, Isabel eavesdrops and learns the secrets of British invasions arising and holds on to the little hope that by revealing these secrets to the Patriots, she will win her freedom and independence. Through the struggles of being beaten and terrorized by her master, she remains strong. The main theme of this book is definitely slavery and courage. Chains starts out pretty slow, but once you give it a chance it’s impossible to stop reading! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books that leave you pondering what will happen next.
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Leigh Livick, October 14, 2010 (view all comments by Leigh Livick)
This riveting book provides a first-hand look at life during the time of the American Revolution. What makes it unusual is that the story is told through the eyes of a household slave from that period. Even though this is a young adult book, I, as an adult, found it very enjoyable to read and learned quite a lot about this period in our country's history. The book left me anxiously waiting for its sequel!
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Pursuing similar themes as M.T. Anderson's Octavian Nothing, this gripping novel offers readers a startlingly provocative view of the Revolutionary War. Isabel Finch, the narrator, and her five-year-old sister, Ruth, are to be freed from slavery upon the death of their mistress in Rhode Island, but the mistress's unscrupulous heir easily persuades the local pastor to dispense with reading the will. Before long Isabel and Ruth are in New York City, the property of a Loyalist couple, whose abusiveness inspires Isabel to a dangerous course: she steals into the Patriot army camp to trade a crucial Loyalist secret in exchange for passage to Rhode Island for herself and Ruth. But not only does the Patriot colonel fail to honor his promise, he personally hands her over to her Loyalist mistress when she runs away, to face disastrous consequences. Anderson (Speak; Fever 1793) packs so much detail into her evocation of wartime New York City that readers will see the turmoil and confusion of the times, and her solidly researched exploration of British and Patriot treatment of slaves during a war for freedom is nuanced and evenhanded, presented in service of a fast-moving, emotionally involving plot. Ages 10 — up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Washington Post,
"As she did so well with Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson vividly captures a chaotic historical time.... Chains is a nuanced portrayal of a nation and a girl bound for freedom."
A National Book Award finalist. At the start of the Revolutionary War, Isabel is sold to a cruel loyalist family, even though she has been promised freedom by her former owner. Soon faced with the choice of working for or against the British, Isabel chooses to work with anyone who can help her.
The American Revolution comes to vivid life in Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson's story of one young girl's quest for freedom, now in paperback.
This story of Thomas Jefferson's children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, tells a darker piece of America's history from an often unseen perspective-that of three of Jefferson's slaves-including two of his own children. As each child grows up and tells his story, the contradiction between slavery and freedom becomes starker, calliing into question the real meaning of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This poignant story sheds light on what life was like as one of Jefferson's invisible offspring.
If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.
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