Saturday 21 October 2017

Sugar Money by Jane Harris @blablafishcakes @FaberBooks @mariagluc #SugarMoney

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission.

They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal.

While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier Emile has no illusions about the dangers they will face. But with no choice other than to obey Cleophas - and sensing the possibility, however remote, of finding his first love Celeste - he sets out with his brother on this 'reckless venture'.

With great characters, a superb narrative set up, and language that is witty and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

Sugar Money by Jane Harris was published on 5 October 2017, in hardback by Faber & Faber and is the author's third novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I always say that I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but when I think back, some of my all-time favourite books are, in fact, historical fiction.  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Jane Harris's first novel The Observations sit there on my 'much-loved books' shelf.

It's almost ten years since I read The Observations but the lead character of that story; Bessy Buckley remains one of my favourite characters ever. This author has such a skilled and thoughtful way of creating voices for her intriguing characters, and she's done it again in Sugar Money. Lucien and his older brother Emile are wonderfully drawn; characters that the reader cannot help but support, and love and their story is beautifully written.

Beginning in 1765, on Martinque; Lucien and Emile are slaves. Owned by Father Cleophas and descended from the island of Grenada.  Father Cleophas dictates that they must return to their homeland and bring back 42 other slaves. He says that they belong to him.

For Lucien, this is an adventure. For Emile, this is a test. Yet they cannot refuse and must set sail with a plan.  Their journey is the author's opportunity to tell their back story, and to reveal their characters and their relationship. This really is such a joy to read, even though I'll admit that at first I did struggle with the dialect, it doesn't take long for the reader to be swept along by these voices, and their intriguing and tragic story.

Whilst there is no doubt that this is beautifully written, it is also devastatingly painful to read. The author does not spare the reader from the horrific detail of how the slaves are treated. Rape, torture, oppression; all there, all vividly portrayed, it is breathtaking.

Sugar Money is a powerful, impressively told story. The sense of place is stunning and the reader is transported to a time of deep injustice, of hate and rage. Sugar Money delves deep into the past. The author's eye for detail is so precise, her characters are pure and the story is compelling.

Jane Harris's debut novel, The Observations, was shortlisted for the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, for the British Book Awards, Waterstone's Newcomer of the Year and the South Bank Show/Times Breakthrough Award.
It was later chosen by Richard and Judy as one of their 100 Books of the Decade and was followed in 2011 by the acclaimed Gillespie & I.

Jane Harris was born in Belfast and grew up in Scotland before moving to England in her 20s.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @blablafishcakes 

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