Profoundly moving and compelling…
Proctor’s captivating latest set in the 18th century tropical Dutch colony of Suriname details the deeply affecting story of a Black woman, who successfully challenged marriage laws upheld by the colonial Governor. As a free negress, Elisabeth Samson seems to have everything: education, numerous profitable coffee plantations, hundreds of slaves, and a man she loves with all her heart. But Carl Otto Creutz, a military lieutenant, is White, and Dutch law doesn’t allow marriage between Black and White. When Elisabeth decides to challenge the marriage laws upheld by the white planters who make up the Courts of Justice and Police and Holland’s Society of Suriname, all hell breaks loose. But Elisabeth is one determined woman, and she’s ready to fight everything, including fate. Proctor smoothly mixes her large array of colorful cast and their backstories with sufficient plot complications. The depth and skill with which Proctor portrays her intricate characters, make them come out alive on the pages: she sketches Carl perfectly, gentle and caring and fiercely loyal, capturing his integrity and charm as well as the determination to protect the ones he loves; Fredrick, who doesn’t get much space in the story, is equally compelling. Elisabeth, though relentlessly struggles with her individual burdens and desires, comes out as a highly driven, determined woman and a memorable character. Proctor writes her story with remarkable freshness and subtlety: amid the mumbo-jumbo of various characters’ everyday lives and political and cultural tensions of the time, she takes time to draw Elisabeth’s rich life with Carl and her large family. The narrative moves smoothly between the present and Elisabeth’s early adult years, tracing her trouble with the Peltsers and her subsequent exile to Holland. The matter-of-the-fact narrative renders the emotional impact of the novel’s happenings all the more powerful: Proctor’s descriptions of the casual cruelties and tortures endured by the Black slaves, particularly at the hands of their masters, is more painful for being so unsentimental. While bestowing immediacy to Elisabeth’s voice, Proctor skillfully conveys historical background in graceful prose: set against a background of military conflict between plantation owners and runaway slaves, the novel offers an unforgettable, page-turning look at the history of Suriname during its Golden Age. Her in-depth research into free Black women’s lives in Suriname brings fascinating revelations about live-in-relationships, Black women’s inferior status despite their wealth, and the rampant superstitions that ruled everyday life. This is a winner.
Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride
Based on the true story of the first black woman in 18th century Suriname to get legal permission to marry white
By Carolyn V. Hamilton Proctor
Swift House Press
Pub date June 6, 2020
Price $17.95 (USD) Paperback, $4.15 Kindle edition