Olivia, Mourning

Written by Yael Politis
Review by Anna Belfrage

There is an interesting double-entendre to the title of this book, as it is a combination of the two protagonists’ names but also could refer to the fact that Olivia is, in fact, mourning – both when the book opens and when it closes.

Set in the 1840s, this is a gritty coming of age story, with a well-developed main character in Olivia, an eighteen-year-old who decides to brave the trials of pioneering life in an attempt to break free from her dependency on her brothers. As a further twist to the plot, Olivia convinces Mourning Free, a free-born black man, to become her partner. For a young white woman to live unchaperoned with an equally young black man is to risk heavy censure. Her attempt at creating a new existence for herself are brutally crushed when disapproving neighbours take things into their own hands, The subsequent events leave Olivia severely traumatized, and Mourning has apparently gone up in smoke. Some people would lie down and die right there, but Olivia is made of stronger stuff. The book ends with a substantially more mature Olivia preparing to face yet another challenge, to be described in the future instalments of the series.

Ms Politis does a very good job in portraying the racial tensions of the time, as well as Olivia’s frustration with being so restricted in her life because of her gender. The dialogue is excellent, with distinctive voices for the various characters.

Olivia, Mourning is a thought-provoking and well-written read, bringing to life a past when women were expected to behave like women and white men considered themselves far above all others. Olivia breaks all the rules in her world – and must therefore face the consequences. Warmly recommended! The e-book edition was reviewed.