Friday, June 5, 2009


by Laurie Halse Anderson

Isabel was supposed to be freed when her mistress died, but through a series of events she and her sister and sold to a fairly nasty loyalist couple and shipped to New York. It's early 1776 and a war with England is brewing. Isabel is told by a fellow slave that if she spies on her loyalist owners and reports the information to the Colonists she will have a chance at freedom. Things start falling apart and something terrible happens to Isabel's sister. Isabel finds herself having to solve her problems alone.

This book covers a subject I knew little about - slavery before the Revolutionary War. I knew it existed, but I tend to think of slavery in context with the Civil War. The amount of history that Anderson is able to weave into the story is pretty amazing. It was easy to fall into the story and feel like I was in New York with Isabel.

Chains is also somewhat horrifying to read. Isabel's loyalty bounces between the colonies and England hoping that one will grant her freedom. At some point she says something along the lines (I don't have the book in front of me) "Why should I care which side wins the revolution when I have to fight for my own freedom?" And, knowing the whole time that she (or at least slaves in general) won't be granted freedom when the Colonies win the war eats at you after a while.

While the story itself isn't necessarily a fun read, Chains is fascinating and the writing is incredible.

4 out of 5 stars


Janssen said...

A perfect review - I felt just the same way.

Shelley said...

I've got this waiting for me on audio. I hope I get to it soon.

Laura H said...

I've seen this one reviewed several times but havent had the guts to read it yet.