Author: Caroline Dale Snedecker
Illustrator: Dorothy P. Lathrop
Era: 2nd century B.C. (around 113 B.C.)
Published: 1933 (Doubleday)
Award: Newberry Honor (1934)
Age Range: 8 – 14 years old
Twelve year old Chloé lives with her companion, Melissa, in a shack in mountains of Samnium outside of Rome. The daughter of a Greek slave and a Roman centurion, at her mother’s death she is abandoned by her father to her fate, which is that of a slave. As Chloé grows to womanhood, she draws from the animals and nature around her as companions. Her character is as lovely as the woods around her, yet still she nurses an abiding hatred for the man who should have loved, nurtured and raised her as his own. When a young Roman nobleman arrives at a neighbouring villa and encounters the young girl, Chloé’s circumstances appear destined to change for the better, yet her past finally catches up with her and Chloe must decide whether she will hold on to the ghosts of the past or reach forward into a new future.
|Map of Ancient Samnium
from the Historical Atlas William R. Shepherd (1911)
Snedecker was known for her extensive research using only primary or secondary sources, and The Forgotten Daughter sings with a melody of the past. Snedecker’s writing brings Roman life to the reader in vibrant colours and poignant emotions. The descriptions of the setting are beautiful and living, and as a reader you feel that you have stepped right into the story.
Chloé’s life as a child slave was perhaps the most troubling and effective portrait that I’ve every read in a book.
“Forever besetting mankind is this temptation — to make other men into machines. Always in a new form it comes to every generation, and always as disastrous to master as to slave.”
Snedecker delves into the emotions of the characters in such a visceral way and with an uncanny perception.
“Despair in the old is a grievous thing, but not so bad as despair in the young. The young have no weapons, no remembrances of evils overcome, nor of evils endured. They have no muscle-hardness from old battles. They see only what is present, and they believe it to be forever. And they are very sure. Besides, joy and up-springing are the right of youth, and without it youth falls to the ground.”
The theme of slavery was obvious on the surface but also subtly explored through other occurences, weaving fine threads of insight through an already well-constructed story. I absolutely loved this read and will be seeking out other books by Snedecker.
This book was read for Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children’s Literature Event.
A more extensive review can be found at my children’s blog, Children’s Classic Book Carousel.
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