Cover Image: Libertie


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Libertie is a coming-of-age novel set in the turbulent time of the 19th century in Brooklyn, beginning in 1860. Libertie Sampson is a black girl who was born into freedom. This also takes place during and after the civil war. Her mother is physician and has their future planned out. Her dream is for Libertie to practice with her. But when Libertie goes to college, she discovers that medicine is not for her. With that ensues conflict between her and her mother, and she marries a Haitian man who promises she would be his equal. Throughout the novel, Libertie seeks to find freedom and what freedom means to her. 
I was utterly drawn into this book at the beginning. I loved the concept. I loved the time-setting. I loved the history. A historical-fiction nerd’s dream. Greenidge explored themes of (TW) racism, slavery, colourisim, motherhood, relationships and the question of what freedom truly means, and in this book’s context what freedom means for black women. I did find that this was a book of two halves for me. The first half had me hooked entirely. However, the second half was still good but didn’t have me as gripped. I think some parts of the plot lacked a bit and perhaps weren’t explored to the extent they could have been. But her writing is captivating and beautiful. 
This book overall is a really engaging historical-fiction that delves into themes that are still relevant today. 
Thank you to Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books & NetGalley for providing me this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
This is a stunning back with such an incredible central character. I always enjoy coming of age novels, but this was unique in every respect.
Was this review helpful?
This epic book shares the life of Libertie Sampson, a young, free black woman living in Kings County New York in the 1860s, as she finds her own path in the world, climbing out from under her mother’s all-consuming love – which manifests as fierce control of her daughter. Libertie’s mother is a doctor, seething with skill, who we meet as she ‘raises a man from the dead’, awakening him from an induced slumber to escape slavery’s clutches, both literally and psychologically: Libertie doesn’t realise how much she’s in her mother’s thrall and is constantly seeking her approval, studying hard and winning a place at medical school so eventually the pair can work as Dr Sampson and Daughter – but is that what the young woman actually wants? The book is threaded throughout with clenched-jaw moments of racist injustice for dark-skinned Libertie, who faces colourist attitudes on all sides, whether within an all-Black community or treating the white women who seek out her mother’s expertise. She surges forward, reaching for freedom and forging her own life rather than the one her mother has determined on her behalf. Though the book spans decades and sees us travel across America, Greenidge’s skill at writing Libertie’s inner thoughts still give the tale an intimate, familial feeling. Like the homeopathic remedies handed out by Libertie’s mother, this is a tale of seeking balance: between mind and body, dreams and reality, trauma and peace – and mothers and daughters.

Featured in June’s Book Club in Cambridge Edition Magazine – thanks to #NetGalley for the advance copy!
Was this review helpful?
An impressive historical novel, thought provoking and intense, this is an amazing depiction of relationships, both familial and between men and women, as well as the constant fight for women, especially black women, to gain agency. Beautiful, lyrical writing makes this exceptional.
Was this review helpful?
A moving novel about womanhood. Though provoking and emotional, we follow Libertie as she breaks away from her mother to form her own life, only to discover that reality isn’t always what you believe it to be. The hardships and true difficulties of life follow her as she leaves one life for another, they do not disappear but morph into something different. 
The one constant that we come to realise is the power and draw of a mother’s love for their child. 
A beautifully written novel and freedom, discovery, and relationships.
Was this review helpful?
“”It is not being hopeless. We have to plan for the worst of what white folks do. Because they always choose the worst. They do what they do, and—“ “We do what we can,” Mama said.” 

Libertie is a free-born Blalck girl living in Brooklyn after the Civil War who feels trapped by the expectations of her mother. Her mother is a physician and expects Libertie to follow in her footsteps, even though Libertie’s character is very different to her mothers. 

This coming of age story follows Libertie as she reckons with the barriers that race puts in place for her as unlike her mother who can pass, Libertie has darker skin. It also explores the patriarchy and how difficult it is to push against it. When Liebrtie receives a marriage proposal from a Haitian man who promises that she will be his equal if she leaves her home and family for the island, she joyfully agrees. Once there she faces the hard realisation that she will always have to act as the subordinate to men. 

At times I did wish that some topics and situations were explored further before the plot moved on but overall this is a fantastic story discussing what freedom really means for Black women!

TW// racism, misogyny, slavery, sexual assault
Was this review helpful?
This novel follows the story of young Libertie, a Black girl who works with her mum who is the village doctor. Libertie's mum has dreams of her daughter following in her footsteps but Libertie herself has other dreams. It also doesn't help that her and her mum have a strained relationship.

I really enjoyed the mother-daughter dynamic in this book, its a theme I'm realising I prefer to read about! The miscommunication, misconstrued signs of love, and battle between what they both want from you (the daughter) is frustrating and enticing. I especially enjoyed the second half of the book where their communication is via letters - Greenridge did so well conveying the tension in formal letter writing! It was also very educational for me to read about familial relationship struggles where one person is "more white" than the other.

It fell flat for me with regards to pacing and plot arcs. The beginning felt very slow, and then when things did pick up, I felt like it didn't really go anywhere. However the themes it explored where ones I found intriguing, tense, and educational.

Thank you to @netgalley for a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Firstly, the cover design for this title is gorgeous - seeing it on the Serpent's Tail instagram is what made me head over to NetGalley to request an arc.

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the book as much as the artwork promised. I'm not sure where this book wanted to place itself - the plot momentum wasn't strong enough for a commercial fiction title, but equally the character voice and development wasn't clear enough for a more literary positioning. I was frustrated at plot beats that happened with no apparent forward narrative or connection, and with a narrator who seemed to have no actual motivations or desires. The concept of the novel was fine but the execution just didn't deliver for me.
Was this review helpful?
Libertie is an absolutely stunning book with very powerful themes running throughout and so many interesting characters. I'm definitely going to pick up a copy of Greenidge's first book as I loved this one..
Was this review helpful?
This was a fascinating book. It hooked me from the beginning, with Libertie's mother, a black doctor in New York, helping a runaway slave. It felt like a really fresh point of view to read about, with really well described characters. . The mother/daughter relationship, the tension of black characters living a tenuous life in their own town but eventually having to treat white women, the difficulties faced by women in particular at this time, were all fascinating. Libertie leaves to go to college and meets a wider range of people, but eventually ends up fighting with her mother as she fails her studies and meets a Haitian man. The second half of the book, where she travels to Haiti and leads a restricted, difficult life in Emmanuel's home is much less punchy but still atmospheric. I wasn't so invested in the characters at this point, which might be due to my lack of knowledge about the political situation in Haiti, but I think also reflects how Libertie feels she is trapped there. The guilt she feels having abandoned her mother is pervasive and quite claustrophobic, but I did like the ending.  In conclusion, I am glad I read the book but I would not bother re-reading the second half.
Was this review helpful?
I am not going to lie, this book started waaay to slow and I thought I am going to DNF it, but something told me that I should keep going and I did not regret it
First, we are following Libertie and her mother who are free back women during the Civil War, helping her mother attend the people from the Brooklyn Community but soon after he meets a boy from Haiti and decides to move across with him
Later did she know that marriage was not an easy thing especially since it wasn't as she imagined it. She questions her freedom, her liberty and her desires in a world where racism is standard and her choices are not one to be taken into consideration 
I love coming of age books and this one did not dissapoint. I totally recommend reading it, passing those few pages at the beginning, you will totally be engrossed in the story
Was this review helpful?
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Libertie is an engaging, beautifully written and compelling story about a beautiful black girl in America during and after the American Civil War.
 Libertie is a wonderful character brought to life by Greenidge. She captured my attention immediately. 
There are many hard hitting topics throughout this story including how dark-skinned Libertie faces racism and colourism throughout her life and how this affects her relationship with her light skinned mother who is able to pass as white as well as how Libertie struggles with her desire to live as equals with her husband and not as his subordinate. 
Libertie’s mother was so interesting to read about from the point of view of Libertie. You could clearly tell how much they cared for each other but their relationship was so strained!
I found that I flew through the second half of the story when it moved to Haiti, however, I preferred the first half. I found the second half of the story slightly more rushed and depth of love between Libertie and her husband was not as explored or evident as the relationship between her and her mother.
The writing is brilliant and the story itself was captivating. I would be very keen to read more from this author.
I would definitely recommend this book!
Was this review helpful?
Libertie follows the story of a young Black girl at the end of the Civil War, turning into a young Black woman. She was born free, just as her mother, but one of the major themes in the book still revolves around questions of freedom: what does it really mean to be free, what do you do to get there. Different characters give different meanings to being free, and employ different methods of getting there. Part of the novel is set in the US, and part of it is set in Haiti. In Haiti, the African Americans who have moved there look down upon the native Haitians and their culture, their religion in particular. This feeling of superiority and the relationship between Haitians and African Americans was really interesting, especially from the perspective of an outsider, Libertie. 
Kaitlyn Greenidge deals with the theme of freedom and others, such as colourism, in a really compelling, and nuanced way. Her writing is beautiful; there is a bit of talk of poetry in the book, and Greenidge’s writing is poetic while not overly flowery. I loved reading about Libertie as a character. Her struggle with herself and what people expected a woman to be and behave like in that time - especially a dark-skinned Black woman - and her feeling both unable and unwilling to conform to that. Her relationship with her mother was so interesting and complex. I would have loved the novel to be a bit longer, just so there was room for certain topics to be explored a bit more. Will definitely write whatever Kaitlyn Greenidge decides to write next.
Was this review helpful?
Libertie is one of those books that really leaves you with something to think about. What is it to be truly free? How can you obtain freedom when the world conspires against you- not only for the colour of your skin, but also for your gender? 

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s book is a fascinating exploration of the theme of freedom in its myriad of guises. Libertie is a young black woman who was born free in New York and lives with her mother, one of the first black female doctors. She struggles throughout her young life to vie for her mother’s attention and feels that she is never good enough or clever enough to be able to obtain it. Dr.  Sampson has her heart set on her daughter following her in her footprints to become a doctor. Set in the years before, during and after the Civil War, Greenidge presents a young woman attempting to find out who she truly is. Can she live up to her mother’s expectations and aspirations or will her interest and love of music steer her in another direction?

The New York of the Reconstruction era is brought to life as is the Caribbean island of Haiti where much of the second half of the book is set. I found that the first section of the book set in New York and its surrounding areas was fast paced with so many compelling thoughts and issues brought to life on the page. Themes of racial stereotyping, prejudice within the black community due to the degree of ‘blackness’ of the person, were beautifully described and discussed by the author. The idea of a woman attempting to follow in what was regarded as a male profession is also an integral theme throughout this section of the book. The novel is rich in historical detail, bringing the period vividly to life for the reader. 

The second half of the book set in Haiti is much slower in pace and I think this is fitting as it echoes the landscape in which Libertie finds herself now situated in. The author once again brings the island and its people to life in a lyrical way, that you feel that you are there experiencing the humidity and sounds of Haiti. The prejudices and stereotypes in America that Libertie tries to escape from have followed her to the island and she realises that being a black woman who aspires to be free has many barriers regardless of where you are in the world during this period. Now married to Emmanuel, she struggles to find her place within this new daunting chapter of her life. 

Beautifully written, rich with historical detail, and exploring themes and issues which still resonate in the modern-day, Greenidge’s work and thoughts on what freedom is needs to be added to your reading list! 

Thank you to NetGalley, Kaitlyn Greenidge and Serpent Tails/Profile Books for a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This book moved along at a quick pace and at a distance from many of the characters. Things happened, people came and went and time passed by year by year. I thought it was one of the book's strengths.
Was this review helpful?
'He looked at me as if I was a wondrous being, as if my voice was a song, as if I was magic. And I did not want to disappoint him.'

Libertie is a novel set in New York during the Reconstruction era - Libertie is a free born Black woman set in a time where slavery was yet to be abolished. Her Mother is a physician and has trained Libertie from a young age and set her on a path to follow in her footsteps. The book looks at the mother-daughter relationship whilst also looking into themes of freedom, marriage, death and obviously the links to the history of slavery. There was a lot to unpack in this book, and it is hard to summarise it in a short review.

The prose in this novel was poetic and I was hooked from the first page. A compelling storyline which really had me emphasising with many of the characters. With links to Haitian mythology, it was really interesting to read. The cover is beautiful as well and I cannot wait to purchase the hardcopy!

Thanks to NetGalley and Serpents Tail for a ARC of this in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Libertie lives alone with her mother, a doctor, close to New York City, as the American Civil War is on the horizon.  The book starts with her mother Cathy providing medical care and safety to an escaped slave Mr Ben.  

Through Libertie’s eyes we see the impact of this work on the black community, the switch in focus of her mother and other women to support orphans who have escaped racist persecution in New York City before turning their support to those fighting in the war.

Libertie’s mother is determined that she will have a fruitful life and works hard to pass on her knowledge of medicine to her daughter, finding a way to send her to medical school.  It is whilst there that Libertie realises that this isn’t the path that she wants.

The first half of the book is very different to the second.  Whilst character focused, it is more plot driven and we regularly see the impact on Libertie of colourism as a dark skinned woman, in contrast to her mother who can pass.

The second half focuses on Libertie’s relationship with Emmanuel, who hails from Haiti which he believes will be a haven for black Americans.  The plot here is much slower and whilst there is some evocative imagery of Haiti and a dive into mysticism, the pace is very different and I found it harder to engage with.

Overall an interesting read, but as it is very character, rather than plot driven, it didn’t keep me hooked.
Was this review helpful?
If ever there was a book of two halves, this is it. 

Set before, during and after the American civil war, it tells the (life) story of Libertie and her relationship with her mother. Her mother is a doctor, a light skinned black woman who can pass as white(important in those days)while Libertie is dark skinned. Her mother treats the local black women but also some local white women. Libertie helps her but the white women don’t like her to be near them as she is too black. 

Her mother dreams of Libertie making the most of her opportunities, she was born free(not a slave) and she wants her to follow in her footsteps. She sends her off to college to study medicine but Libertie always had a will of her own and soon finds she has little interest in medicine and tries to find something she loves and could be her calling. She gravitates towards music and neglects her studies and ends up failing her course and asked not to return. 

She wants to hide this from her mother and the events that follow take up the second half of the book. 

The first half of this was really interesting. The mother daughter relationship. The shocking racism that was the norm. The psychological toll of slavery, being black in those dark times. There was a really interesting cast of characters and stories as we looked at the world through the child’s eyes of Libertie. 
Tension between daughter and mother is also a huge part of the first half and does run all the way through the book but from a distance in the second half. 

Once Libertie leaves home and ultimately moves to Haiti with her new husband it feels like a different book and not for the better unfortunately. While the first half was interesting, multi faceted provocative, the second half was....well...a little tedious. Very little really happens. The book has such a seismic shift in tone that it feels completely disjointed. While the first half had me engaged I cared little for the characters in the second half. The book is a little over 300 pages but feels like a lot more. 

Some really interesting, through provoking prose in the first half let down hugely by a tedious meander of a second half, there is certainly a lot here to enjoy and admire. It’s just frustrating that it goes left-field and for the worse. 

Many thanks to Netgalley and Serpents Tail/Profile Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
"I am not sure I ever knew myself. I used to think this was a failing. Something to hide from you. How could I be a righteous woman, to serve the world as you did, if I did not know myself?"

Set during and after the American Civil War, Libertie follows its eponymous protagonist as she struggles to define herself and her own freedom. The freeborn daughter of one of America's earliest black female physicians, Libertie attempts to negotiate the expectations of those around her.

This was a lyrical and deeply character-driven historical novel which passed by quickly. Libertie's relationships with her mother Cathy, and later with Emmanuel, were rendered economically and with care. Greenidge negotiated heavy issues with a light touch. The series of vignettes in which we observe Libertie's development from a child at her mother's knee to a young woman unable to articulate her own freedom are beautifully handled, understated yet powerful.

An engaging and self-assured read.
Was this review helpful?
A vivid and thought-provoking historical novel, Libertie takes the theme of freedom and asks what it really means.

Structurally, it's a coming of age story, but Libertie is such a complex, confused protagonist that her journey isn't always quite as satisfying as it could have been. But I loved the realism of her character: Greenidge captures that uniquely teenage tendancy to strike out for yourself by hurting those you love. And for all her flaws, Libertie always has the self-awareness to recognise when her wounds are self-inflicted, which I felt made her a truly compelling main character.

Intelligent and absorbing, Libertie is a memorable read.
Was this review helpful?