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The last time I was in Charleston, SC, one or two tours that I went on mentioned Eliza Lucas. Her father left her in charge of his plantations near Charleston in the 1740s while he went to war with the Spanish in the Caribbean. That really caught my attention. A woman running plantations? At that time? And she was only in her teens? I wanted to know more.
I stumbled on The Indigo Girl while I was browsing Main Street Reads in Summerville, SC. That gorgeous cover grabbed my attention first. I couldn’t resist it. Then I realized that it was about the same woman I’d heard mentioned on my tours. I was sold.
The Eliza I found in these pages was delightful. She’s obviously a nonconformist, smart, stubborn, and caring. I loved seeing her grow more confident in herself and her abilities despite society’s low-to-nonexistent expectations of women. She’s exactly the kind of real-life person I love to read about–a woman who’s almost been lost to time despite her historical contributions. I’m thankful to authors who search out these kinds of stories and share them with us.
There is one subplot that seemed just too inconceivable for a woman of her time and station and I had a hard time accepting it and moving on with the story. I would occasionally get jerked out of the tale and ask myself, “Do I buy this?” And the answer was no. But she was an individualist in many ways, so who knows? The author writes in her Afterword that she pieced together two tiny pieces of Eliza’s extant letters and invented this part. It was very distracting to me and even seemed unnecessary.
Ms. Boyd writes in her author’s note that Margaret Pickett published a biography of Eliza after she (Ms. Boyd) finished writing her historical fiction book. I’d like to know more of the factual story, so I’ll be looking for it.
This is a small thing but, aside from that beautiful cover, this book is just such a physically nice edition. It is a paperback but the pages are thick and cream-colored and it’s easy to hold open. I love books that just feel nice to hold.
If you like reading about historical women who break the mold that’s been cast for them, give this a try.
Eliza Lucas is only 16 years old when her father leaves her in charge of his three South Carolina plantations to seek wealth and advancement in the British military in the Caribbean. She’s always had a love for botany and she has dreams of proving her worth by growing the family’s wealth, despite being “only” a daughter. She remembers from her time in Antigua that the French have an important cash crop in indigo dye and determines to unlock the secrets herself.
If you liked The Indigo Girl, you might also like my reviews of
- Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
- The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan, read by Sneha Mathan
- The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. W. Gortner
Buy The Indigo Girl from Malaprop’s Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC or