My review and thoughts:
The book opens in Spring 1776 at the scene of the funeral of Miss Mary Finch, the elderly owner of Isabel, a young teenage slave girl, her little sister Ruth and also of their mother, who had died of smallpox not long ago. Despite protests that herself and Ruth were freed in Miss Finch's will, her abrupt and unkindly nephew Robert refuses to acknowledge the existence of the will and wants to get rid of the girls as fast as he can to the high test bidder. Soon Isabel and Ruth find themselves sold to the cruel and wealthy Lockton family ,who are English loyalists, and shipped away to New York with the sea separating Rhode Island where they Mum is buried and the only place that they could get near to calling a home. With only each other left, Isabel vows to take care of Ruth, who is a simple but obedient and hard working girl Mrs Lockton, whom Isabel refers to as Madam in the book, treats Isabel very badly, making her work hard from dawn to dusk at her every whim and feeding her very little. Although it may seem that 'Madam' is trying to break Isabel's spirits she is determined to cling onto hope.
Chains was a book that was incredibly detailed and did not gloss over any part of the plot quickly but was very pacy and I couldn't stop reading even if though I didn't want it to end.
The many themes that cropped up in the book made me stop and think about the, such as racial tension and the invisibility of slaves and the horrors of the way that they were treated.
Laurie Halse Anderson includes a wonderful appendix with questions and answers that include these historical topics amongst others. I found it very helpful, particularly with distinguishing fact from fiction in the book as many of the things that Isabel experiences could have actually happened at the time to a young slave girl.
At the top of each chapter were little extracts from sources like newspapers, letters or books written at the time, which I loved because they made the book more quirky and their content and the dated font helped to set the historical scene each time I opened the book to read more.
The chapters were just the right size, reasonably short but packing in enough emotion, excitement, plot twists and description to satisfy. I found that they were great when trying to get myself to put the book down to go to sleep!
Chains is the first book I have read by Laurie Halse Anderson and I loved it! Her writing style was very engaging as it was written from the point of view of Isabel, which meant that the emotion of her life as a slave really shined through the writing throughout the book. I also liked the way that at the end of chapters/paragraphs there was often a sentence in italics written as though Isabel is talking to herself.
I really recommend it to everyone- you will fall in love with the engaging and page turning story of Isabel's story of courage and strength when she is surrounded by betrayal and cruelty in her life.
Extra: I am looking forward to reading the upcoming sequel to Chains, called Forge, when it is released.
Take a look at the three cover editions above- Which one do YOU like best?
I think that all of them portray the book in a different way:
Cover 2 shows the concept of Isabel being 'chained' to her life as a slave really well and I love the idea of the 2 birds- 1 American and 1 British- however, the colours are quite dull and although it is a cover which speaks out with a powerful message, it is not the most appealing of covers
Cover 3 is very bright and I like the contrast of the red background and the yellow writing. The idea of Isabel being enclosed in a circle of chains with the pretty decoration around the side is also lovely.
Cover 1 is a cover that uses a photograph, which I think is very effective because the expression on the girl's face makes you want to pick it up to find out what she is thinking/feeling and what has made that happen. The decorative flowers at the edge are a cute edition, as is the quote at the top of the book, which really drew me in (as this was the edition I first saw in the library.
Although I like all of the covers for different reasons the one that appeals to me the most has to be Cover 1 but that is a very hard decision.
What do you think of the covers and which is your favourite?