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Unconfessed Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. Why do you think the author chose to shift from third person to first person narrative? What does this shift achieve?

2. Do you have any mental image of Sila? What kinds of detail emerge from her deeply introspective voice?

3. Do you have any mental images of the places that Sila lived in? Are there any small details help create these images in the absence of the kind of description that third person narrative would provide?

4. Can we trust Silas account of everything? Or are there moments when we believe her and moments when we doubt her?

5. What do you think Sila keeps secret, and why?

6. What does Sila say to her friend Lys that she does not say to her son, Baro?

7. What kinds of things does Sila say to Johannes that she does not say to Lys or Baro?

8. Why do you think Sila says nothing about the father or fathers of her children? Does it matter that she says nothing about them? Or are there clues as to who he/they might be?

9. Is Silas life ever open to something other than grief and rage?

10. What kind of humor does Sila have?

11. How and when does the tone and style of Silas language change?

12. Does Silas story make you want to know more about this moment in South Africas early history, and about slavery?

13. Do you perceive any differences between what you know of slavery in, say, the Americas, and the world that unfolds in Silas story?

14. Why would we be interested in yet another slave story? What does this book have to say that is different?

Product Details

Christianse, Yvette
Other Press
Historical - General
General Fiction
fiction;south africa
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5 in

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Unconfessed Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 360 pages Handsel Books - English 9781590512814 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This fiercely poetic literary debut re-creates the life of an 18th-century slave woman in South Africa. With extraordinary detail and authentic emotion, Christianse connects the reader to the unimaginable.
"Synopsis" by , A 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award finalist: "Impossible to put down, this work deserves a place beside such classics as Toni Morrison's Beloved and Edward P. Jones's The Known World."—Library Journal (starred review)

Slavery as it existed in Africa has seldom been portrayed—and never with such texture, detail, and authentic emotion. Inspired by actual 19th-century court records, Unconfessed is a breathtaking literary tour de force.

They called her Sila van den Kaap, slave of Jacobus Stephanus Van der Wat of Plettenberg Bay, in the colony of South Africa. They called her murderer, and demanded that she explain her terrible violence. A woman fit for hanging...condemned to death on April 30, 1823, only to have her sentence commuted to a lengthy term on the notorious Robben Island.

Sila spends her days in the prison quarry, breaking stones for Cape Town's streets or cleaning the Warden's house. Her fierce, sometimes tender voice recalls the dramatic events of her life—as well as its small, precious moments and pleasures. Unconfessed is an epic novel that connects the reader to the unimaginable through the force of poetry and a far-reaching imagination. Reading group guide included inside this edition.

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