Based on true events, this is a touching story of a young woman, just 16 years old, being left to manage her fatherís three plantations in South Carolina as he pursues his military career. The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd - #historical fiction, #reading, #books to read, #books

The Indigo Girl

By Natasha Boyd


PBR Book Review:

One of the things I like most about this book is that, although a fictionalized account of a true person, it feels real. Itís also inspiring to read about a young woman ahead of her time. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas is incredibly mature for her age, proving many times over to be up to the task of overseeing three family plantations. I love that when faced with challenges, she defies custom and follows her kind heart. I also loved watching her grow from a teenager unsure of herself and her place in the world to a woman of substance who made a considerable contribution to the economy of the South. As I do with a lot of historical fiction, I wonder how I would fare in similar circumstances. Recommend.


Book Club Talking Points:

Eliza is a young woman who defies convention and perseveres to attain her goal, which is no small feat in the 1700s. The story touches on a lot of social issues of the South in this time period Ė like racial inequality, treatment of slaves and womenís rights. Contrasting the differences and similarities between then and now will certainly make for lively discussion, as will Elizaís choices and actions.
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*Discussion Questions



1. Eliza, by all expectations, was an eligible prize. She was young (which meant she was malleable), and her family had land. Yet in her accounts and letters there is rare mention of more than an occasional interest in suitors. Apart from Mr. L, whom she soundly rejects in a letter to her father, and the obscure Mr. Murray, we donít hear much about it. Do you think she didnít find them worth mentioning since she had no intention of marrying, or was she really such a nonconforming lady that potential suitors didnít quite know what to do with her?

2. It is clear from the currency issues Charles was dealing with that colonists were already beginning to chafe under British rule even as early as the 1740s. Why do you think it took another thirty years or so for there to be a revolution?

3. There is no surviving picture or likeness or even description of Eliza that exists today. She hardly discussed her own looks. But, after reading her story and getting to know her character, do you have a sense of her in your mind? Almost as if her character is what made up her likeness? How do you picture her?

4. Do you think Ben really did die, or do you think Quash told Eliza he was dead so that Ben could be free and Eliza could grieve his loss? Why would he do that?

5. Do you think Eliza and Charles Pinckney were in love before the death of his wife? Do you consider this infidelity on the part of Charles?

6. In this story, who do you think killed Starrat and why?

7. Eliza was twenty-one and Charles Pinckney was believed to be around forty-five at the time of their marriage. Did you think about their age difference as you read the story? How do you feel about it?

8. In this story, Elizaís mother seems to be working hard toward getting Eliza married off. Do you think her mother was only doing what she thought would benefit Eliza, or was she thinking of herself?

?9. It was clear that Eliza wasnít exactly a fan of the institution of slavery. Do you think she could have done more to work against the system, and do you think she could have succeeded in producing indigo with paid labor instead of using unpaid slaves? ?

(Discussion Questions by Author)


Book Summary
The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their familyís 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 itís the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her itís 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 returnóagainst the laws of the dayóshe 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 Elizaís 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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