Book Rating (84)
Narrator Rating (19)

The Indigo Girl: A Novel

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Saskia Maarleveld

10 Hours 32 Minutes

Blackstone Audiobooks

October 2017

Audio Book Summary

The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.

Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return—against the laws of the day—she will teach the slaves to read.

So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

Based on historical documents, including Eliza’s letters, this is a historical fiction account of how a teenage girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today. Although largely overlooked by historians, the accomplishments of Eliza Lucas influenced the course of US history. When she passed away in 1793, President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.

This book is set between 1739 and 1744, with romance, intrigue, forbidden friendships, and political and financial threats weaving together to form the story of a remarkable young woman whose actions were before their time: the story of the indigo girl.

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Reviews

  • Barbara G.

    It was interesting to be reading this book while widespread demonstrations for racial justice for African Americans were going on. Demonstrators pointed to the history of slavery in this country; the book was written from the point of view of a young Englishwoman newly immersed in the ownership and management of enslaved people in the mid-18th century. What I appreciated about the book was its solid grounding in historical research among the papers left by Eliza Lucas. This was not a "moonlight and magnolias" romantic treatment of the slave system. I was still left with the question of how the enslaved African Americans benefited from sharing the intricate process of growing and processing indigo, which became the foundation for fortunes amassed by the Pinckney and other South Carolinian families. Interested to learn in the Afterward that one of the enslaved men who was key to Eliza's success was freed a few years later, purchased land in the Charleston area, and became a planter himself.

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  • Marc K.

    The author made the story come to life. Definitely a good read/listen.

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  • Pamela G.

    Excellent historical fiction. It was a story I couldn’t stop listening to. Eliza Lucas was a fascinating, strong woman. Her development of Indigo dye was truly amazing at a time when woman were not taken seriously. Well read.

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  • Gail R.

    This was one of the first books I have listened to where at first—- I knew it was being “read”. The use of the First Person (“I said...”, “ I thought...”) was distracting. Somewhere in the middle, the narrator sounded more like she was performing this book rather than reading it. Anyway, the topic was interesting. I did cheat and look up Eliza Lucas Pinckney before I finished listening which did not ruin the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Very interesting to hear history from her point.

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  • Anonymous

    Good story and well narrated

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  • Jessica T.

    what an amazing story! the story based the life of Eliza Lucas pickney and her struggles in life & with indigo flowed beautifully. I felt I was there, as the narrator was perfect.

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  • ANGELA T.

    I,m not sure if I like the narrator,s performance, male voices in particular, all sound like if the men were angry all the times

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  • J R.

    Interesting historical novel, well read, great listen. Happy to find an intelligent, strong, fair female protagonist, especially from that era.

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  • Kathryn R.

    Great historical picture of the time periods and an amazing colonial girl growing to womanhood in a complex social structure. Eliza was out of sync with her time period in moral and economic expectations of women and of the enslaved people who built the prosperity of colonial America. Wonderful book!

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