Friday, August 15, 2008

An Experiment in Slavery

Title: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Volume 1: The Pox Party
Author: M.T. Anderson

A National Book Award Finalist, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing details the life of Octavian, a young slave, during the early days of the Revolutionary War. He is owned by Mr. Gitney, who is a member of the Novanglian College of Lucidity. Members of this college are very interested in the sciences and philosophy and in conducting all sorts of experiments, including those of questionable morality.

Octavian himself is an experiment - in the supposed inferiority of black people. Minute details of his life are recorded multiple times a day, including the weight of all that enters and leaves his body. He is taught Latin and Greek, and given an excellent classical education.

His mother, Cassiopeia, is said to be a princess in her homeland but she left it long ago when pregnant with Octavian. She is very beautiful and the men of the Novanglian College treat her like royalty.

Then, one fateful day, the patron of the Novanglian College dies, and his heir, Lord Cheldthorpe of the New Creation, visits to determine whether or not he should continue the support. He falls for Cassiopeia and wants to buy her and Octavian from Mr. Gitney. Cassiopeia has no interest in being a play toy and will only go if he marries her. Of course, he has no intention of marrying a slave, they fight, and he gets his revenge.

Left without money to support the College, Mr. Gitney resorts to engaging a businessman who has very different ideas about which experiments should be conducted, and how current experiments, including Octavian, should be handled. And life gets worse from there.

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posted by Kate at 5:32 PM


Blogger Elizabeth said...

Sounds like nothing I've read before, which means I'm interested. Did you like it?

8/16/2008 9:36 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I suppose I should also mention that it's a Young Adult book. It was good. I didn't love it, but I did like it.

8/18/2008 3:16 PM  

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