Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Respectable Trade

A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory
Historical Fiction

The year is 1787 and the place is Bristol, England. Josiah Cole is a very ambitious growing slave trader. He has 3 ships which he sails to Africa for slaves which are then sold in the West Indies to the plantation owners for sugar and rum. Josiah wants more. More money and acceptance into the top elite merchant association. To do this he arranges a marraige to a penniless aristocrat, Frances

Frances is at first, resident in a small house adjoining the warehouse. She is required to teach some slaves brought home. She is to make them into British valets and house maids. Sarah, Josiah's sister is critical of her and seems to find fault with her every action and especially her spending.

Mehuru is one of the slaves that has been brought back to Bristol. He was a priest from the noble and civilized country of Yoruba in Africa. He wants his freedom but later finds he also wants Frances. But in this day that is utterly impossible.

The book describes the stench and pollution of the Bristol harbour at this time. Frances is caught between trying to be a lady and feeling compassion for the slaves. She has absolutely no backbone and that is where the book falls down. The reader gets so mad at Frances to finally stand up for herself.

First Line: "Mehuru woke at dawn with the air cool on his outstretched body."




Jeane said...

The title sounds incongruous. Was the author trying to portray the slave-trade positively, or defend it? Or is there something else behind the title, I'm curious.

Dana said...

The slave trade at that time was a respectable trade and quite a profitable one. Also there is a thread of respectability and the perception of respectability throughout the book