ARC Review: A Sitting in St James by Rita Williams-Garcia


1860, Louisiana. After serving as mistress of Le Petit Cottage for more than six decades, Madame Sylvie Guilbert has decided, in spite of her family’s objections, to sit for a portrait.

While Madame plots her last hurrah, stories that span generations—from the big house to out in the fields—of routine horrors, secrets buried as deep as the family fortune, and the tangled bonds of descendants and enslaved.

This astonishing novel from award-winning author Rita Williams-Garcia about the interwoven lives of those bound to a plantation in antebellum America is an epic masterwork—empathetic, brutal, and entirely human.


A Sitting in St James is an powerful piece of historical fiction set on a struggling sugar plantation in Louisiana before the Civil War. A compelling but sometimes heart-wrenching tale about the atrocities of American slavery and the abominable way in which they were treated.  It centres around the lives of the Guilbert family and their servants living on the La Petite Cottage plantation.    

There is an expansive cast of characters in this multigenerational saga, some whom whom you’ll love, others you will dislike with a passion. Even the minor characters have a huge part to play.  The characters are brilliantly portrayed and the author is very clever at getting across their thoughts and feelings, sometimes with only the blink of an eye or a slight head movement indicating precisely what the person thinking or feeling. Complicated relationships are also explored the most prominent being Madame Sylvia Guilbert’s relationship with her servant, Thisbe.  Thisbe is treated abominably, and there are some truly shocking and eye-opening moments.

A Sitting in St James is an incredibly well researched and complex novel and I loved the way the story all unravelled in the aftermath of the party and the portrait unveiling. Before I read this I had little knowledge of Louisiana and its history and it has been fascinating and thought-provoking learning about it. Definitely one to read again as I’m sure I missed a lot of detail in the first sitting.  A powerful and sweeping novel which will have you mesmerised from start to finish. Although it is advertised as a young adult novel it could be enjoyed by both YA readers and adult readers alike.  It certainly won’t be the last novel I read by this author.    

Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Publication Date (UK):
25 May 2021 (eBook)
24 June 2021 (Hardback)
Format:  Paperback 
Page Count: 480
Genre:  Historical Fiction 
Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I hope you enjoyed this review.  For my current reads, recommendations and anything else book related, please follow me on Instagram , Goodreads or Twitter

Please do not hesitate to comment below if you liked my review or have any comments about this book 😊 

Happy reading!


Twisted in Pages Blog

Published by twistedinpages

Reader • Reviewer • Blogger

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Sitting in St James by Rita Williams-Garcia

  1. Hello. An interesting review. I’ve got a book sitting here, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It’s about slaves in Georgia. I’m looking forward to reading it, and have made a note of A Sitting in St James. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

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