I'm nearing the end of Marlon James's The Book of Night Women and pausing to focus on two moments. The first is a moment in the life of Lilith (a black woman in slavery), and the second is a moment in the life of Isobel (a white woman living in Jamaica during slavery). I don't yet know how things will turn out, but here's some of what may be the book's statement about the true heart of slavery's darkness for the two women:
First, Lilith, a black woman in slavery who falls in love with her white master...
She start to doubt her true womanness. She wonder what kind of nigger she be and why her stomach don't go sick every time the Irishman drop him drawers and suck her tities. She wonder what kind of nigger she be that turn fool every time Quinn take up lodging inside her . . . Lilith hate him, she know she do, she just didn't know that hate was goin' be just like what Homer [another black woman in slavery] say love be like. That she would have to guard it, lock it up in a pen like wild animal, for every chance hatred get, it flee. More times she have to just tell herself that she hate the man, she hate the man, she hate the man, goddamn. He touch her back in him sleep. Lilith curse herself. She is the one who get whip but he is the one she feel sorry for. She must be the most crossed and mixed-up nigger ever. But is a diabolical thing when a white man show kindness.
Second, Isobel, a white woman whose nighttime sex and drinking sprees may be behaviour true to her desires, but behaviour that is damaging to her image as a lady...
Miss Isobel start to bellow out that she want more . . . the man laugh again and climb onto the bed. He wave a mug over her and she grab at it like a greedy pickney. She cuss for him to give it to her. At once. Quinn never hear her speak like a negro before. She and the man who might be white or octoroon . . . Bitch does what she wants, as women do in the colonies. That Humphrey is engaged to her, that's what sad. Feckin' grievous.
As I said, I'm not quite done reading it yet, but maybe part of Night Women's brilliance lies in its depiction of some of the true horrors of slavery for women (black and white)--horrors involving the desires they were unable to control.