This is indeed a great story enshrining the real values based on racial equality.
It is sometimes revolting to read the ways of the past, in which Negroe slaves
were treated as if they were pieces of cattle or furniture to be sold at
a bid like dogs. I would go as far as saying that this was America's shame
and in particular representative of the Southern states cruelty to the black
race. Beecher Stowe's narrative is magnificent, it weaves its way through
the lives of many and discusses the importance of freedom in the context
of a spiritual deliverance.
Indeed Tom is De Grieux's master for if the latter breaks the spirit and
the bones with his brutality, the former remains the winner as he does not
give in to torture. The story progresses with remarkable fluency from the
very vestiges of the horrors of family separation up to the end of the tearful
reunion, the only logical conclusion to such a tale of passion. Slavery is
a destructive factor, it limits the possibilities whilst demonstrating the
limits of man's inhumanity to man. However all is not sad and dark as the
characters of George Shelby and Augustine St Clare demonstrate.
St Clare is the particular fulcrum of the story with his unflinching love
for Tom and his sense of desolation in being alone after the death of little
Eva who in her pious simplicity is Tom's sister in the faith. And Tom's
benevolent character is a lifeline to all, even if the devilish brutality
of De Grieux is only momentarily quelled. Tears must be shed in the wonderful
conclusion when the wheel turns full circle with George and Eliza Harris
free in Canada and the whole Shelby estate freed by their benevolent master,
a turning point in the history of America that was to follow so bitterly
in the Civil War. The figure of God, in love and benevolence is also a constant
leitmotif, indeed Tom's martyrdom is definitely not in vain.
Liza Ross's reading is absolutely exceptional, quite simply the greatest
I've ever heard (and that includes David Timson). She turns on that Negro
accent with astonishing vitality and her heart-rending enunciations have
to be heard to be believed. The music is also delightful with Berwald, Rubenstein
and Hartmann making distinctly ideal bedfellows to the American story. This
is indeed a classic and deserves to be heard by all, as a lesson of the horrors
of slavery and of the beauty of love and redemption.