I’ve been reading The Plantation Mistress for a while now and I love it. It is my first theoretical approach to Southern history and I couldn’t be more thankful to the author, Catherine Clinton, for her amazing research. However, I usually find myself surprised of how much I am enjoying this non-fiction work. As a literature student reading articles is obviously compulsory (and something, sometimes, I enjoyed) but I had never forced myself to read non-fiction. Shame on me.
The Plantation Mistress explores the lives of women in the coastal Southern states from the colonial period until the Civil War. I must admit I had no idea about most of the things she deals with. For me, plantation mistresses were rich women who enjoyed their free time reading, driking tea and complaining about their slaves. They were not like that at all. They lived practically isolated, over-worked and subjected to the Southern social conventions I am so interested in.
But, what I wanted to write about is the importance of non-fiction and especially research works. Probably, next time I approach a Southern work with a feminine character (can’t wait to read Gone with the Wind because y’all seem to love it!) I will read between the lines and think a little bit more about their lives. The Plantation Mistress is helping me to become a better reader and, in my opinion, a better person in general. Learning and trying to understand the history and the characters I’m reading about is a huge important step… and I am willing to take it! Catherine Clinton exemplifies her theories with excerpts from real-life letters and diaries, making the historical figures of “women in the South” more human and real, easier to understand.
What do you think about non-fiction research works? Do they help you become better readers?