The Feast of All Saints
"The Feast of All Saints" (1979) is a
novelby Anne Rice.
This novel is about the
gens de couleur libres, or free people of color, who lived in New Orleansbefore the Civil War. The gens de couleur libres were the descendants of European settlers of Louisiana, particularly the French and Spanish and people of African descent. It was a common practice for the early caucasian settlers to free these children by their slave mistresses. Their mistresses however, were not all enslaved, some were free women of color whose families had been free for several generations. The novel takes place in the 1840's, at which time there was a large population of free people of color living in New Orleans.
The story centers on Marcel, a young
quadroonwhose mother Cecile is the mistress of Philippe Ferronaire, a rich French plantationowner. Cecile has borne Ferronaire two children, Marcel and his sister Marie. Marie is very light skinned and able to pass as white, but Marcel, who is blonde and blue eyed, but with kinky hair and darker skin, cannot. The other two major characters in this novel are Christophe, a famous author who returns from Paristo start a school for the young gens, and Anna Bella, Marcel's childhood friend. Anna Bella loves Marcel, but as he is unprepared to offer her marriage (and too young) she becomes the mistress of Vincent Danzicourt, who is the brother of Philippe Ferronaire's white wife. They have a child together, but split after Marcel, who had been planning to be sent to Paris, learns that his father has betrayed him and drunkenly wanders to his father's plantation to confront him. In disgrace, he is sent to live with his aunt among many Creole of color planters on the Cane River. It is here that Marcel learns some of his (African Diasporan) history, including the Haitian Slave Revoltand the fact that his mother was stolen off the street by his adopted aunt during that time.
While Marcel is learning history, his father is in
New Orleansdrinking himself to death, which he eventually does, depriving the family of their source of income. Marie, who was set to marry Marcel's best friend Richard, is now told that she will follow in her mother's footsteps and take a white protector in order to get money for the family and send Marcel to Paris (Marcel is unaware of all of this). Marie confides this to her slave maid, Lisette. Lisette is also Phillipe Ferronaire's daughter (which Marie does not know) and was promised her freedom by him, but as he did to Marcel, he reneged on his promise. In revenge, Lisette takes Marie to the house of a voodooiene, where she is drugged and sexually assaulted by five men. Marcel comes home to find that his sister has been raped, Richard is locked in the family attic (to prevent him from taking revenge on the men) and Vincent Danzicourt has challenged two of the men to duels and killed them.
Marie has taken refuge with a local madam, Dolly Rose, and Lisette commits
suicide. Danzicourt kills a third man (the other two sail away from New Orleans before they can be called out) and Richard, who is finally let out of the attic, tells his family that he will marry Marie or face exile with her. The novel ends with Marie and Richard sailing to France (where they will stay until the gossip dies down) and Marcel deciding to become a photographer in order to earn his living (with the implication that once he has some success he will marry Anna Bella).
"The Feast of All Saints" was made into a
miniseriesin 2001 by director Peter Medakand starring James Earl Jones, Forest Whitaker, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Pam Grier, Ben Vereen, Jasmine Guy, Jennifer Beals, Robert Ri'chard, Gloria Reuben, Peter Gallagher, Daniel Sunjata, Nicole Lyn, Jenny Levine, and Bianca Lawson.
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