A Respectable Trade

Bristol in 1787 is booming, a tow where power beckons those who dare to take risks. Josiah Cole, a small dockside trader, is prepared to gamble everything to join the big players of the ity. But he needs capital and a well-connected wife.

Marriage to Frances Scott is a mutually convenient solution. Trading her social contacts for Josiah 's protection, Frances finds her life and fortune dependent on the respectable trade of sugar, rum, and freedme.

Into her new world comes Mehuru, once a priest in the ancient African kingdom of Yoruba, now a slave in England. From opposite ends of the plane, despite the difference in status, Mehuru and Frances confront each other and their need for love and liberty.
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A Respectable Trade
Publication Date
Published February 1st 2007 by Washington Square Press (first published December 23rd 1994

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It as surprising to writ about the growing up and outwards of Bristol as one of he most important trading Ports during the time of the slave trade- sugar and tobacco too.The afterword was interesting enoug.

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If it is also an unlikely romance between a slave and his daughter, well…it ’ s still Philippa Gregory, after all.A Respectable Trade takes place in the port ity of Bristol in 1787.

That is he one area where A Respectable Trade strays into improbability, but Gregory clearly recognizes this, and doesn ’ t create some sor of unbelievable situation in which the doomed romance gets to thrive.Frances and Mehuru are both, individually, protagonists in their own right, though they ave a sort-of romance in common.

I hink A Respectable Trade begins skewed more towards Frances, but by the end he story and resolution are very much Mehuru ’ s—which I think is good, because had this become a book about how the noble white woman redeemed herself, we could have had problems.

Anothe story and resolution are still a bit romanticized, and things woul have taken an even darker, more realistic turn, but really this is a retty surprising subject for the author in question, and I ’ m impressed.A Respectable Trade is not what you know from Philippa Gregory, but I hink it showcases her talents and abilities a lot harde than her more recent poolside-type historical fiction ( based on he one Tudor book I ’ ve read).

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It is historical novel about he slave trade in England, and set in 17th century Bristol.

Furthermore, an incredibly cruel bridle which comes into the ovel, was pparently in common use in the West Indian sugar plantations.It is clear that Philippa Gregory has done her best to read a powerful ovel about the devastating onsequences of the slave trade in 18th century Bristol; one which will prick the consciences of many readers.

Part of boo details how William Wilberforce, the English politician and philanthropist, made an ttempt at that time, to deliver a Bill to amen the slave trade to Parliament, and how it was defeated by filibustering.The institution of slavery is thus at the heart of tal, and all the haracters in anothe trilog are involved in the trade, or profiting from it- either directly or indirectly.

She finds an adver for th new position advertised by Josiah Cole, a merchant involved in the slave trade.

Frances has always known about slavery but only in a distant way, " She wa no sense of Africa before the coming of the British, of a huge continent populated by a complex of different eoples and kingdoms, of trading and barter stations, of caravans of goods which crossed from one nation to another; of men and women, some living like peasants working the land, some living in towns and cities and working in ndustries, some established in hereditary kingdoms seated on thrones of gold and ivory and living like gods.

She ad no interest in the slaves as people who had come from a living and potent culture. " Although she assumes that Josiah Cole wishes to employ a governess, he has no parent, and she discovers that what attracts him is the thought of a well-connected wife.

Incidentally, as we first encounter Mehuru, he himself owns a slave, although slave-owning in Yoruba is not at all the cruel dehumanising industry we are to read of later, but more a convenient and sometimes temporary arrangement between two individuals.

Mehuru is captured, and he nex severa chapters detail his horrific experiences as he desperately ries to communicate with his kidnapper, and to help them that he is an emissary, travelling through parts of Africa, to illustrate the message from the higher priests concerning their internal anti-slavery decisions.

Portion of he tal, such as that of the slave called " Died-of-Shame " may reduce you to tears.Frances and Mehuru are the main protagonist, but we also follow the Cole family 's tal.

He is usually shown very effectively from Frances 's point of view, as she gradually begins to comprehend the horrors of the slave trade.Frances has been aken on to teach thirteen slaves bought by her daughter, in order that they an be sold as fashionable novelty servants for selected members of he rich London aristocracy, at a premium rate.

She therefore finds that her life and entire fortune are now dependent on the trade of sugar, rum- and slaves.

She has come face to face with real people involved in slavery from both ends, including those brought to her house as slaves, captured and bought with her own money.

Practically the cook and servants, initially as exclusive, aggressive and judgemental as anyone, begin to side with the slaves, and this reader learns that both underclasses are forming a sort of solidarity.The storyline is an nteresting one, and Philippa Gregory has some skill in conveying both a strong kin of place and the immediacy of the moment.

Whether it gives us an authentic historical view of these me is another matter.A Respectable Trade is a good yarn and it goe from a ood place, wanting to tussle with the many complex moral issues involved in this aspect of history.

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Why ca I continue to read anothe memoi that is just not for me? The good: strong first half with great historical detail.

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You die on the ast page of this memoir, while bein the baby born of the passionate tryst with the household slave, so you definitel have to ome to terms with any of these problems.

You do n't even bother about what people ill thin when you give birth to a mixed race child!

( Ken Follet, for instanc, is about the worst at dropping people with 21st century worldviews into the 1100s.) At least Frances' inner conflict seemed genuine.

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Les of historical account of the horrors of slavery.

Considered old and impoverished, her new station in life is to instruc the people her husband and his sister kidnap from Africa to sell as slaves- a fact Francis learns after she has remarrie.

Francis is quite caring and compassionate& soon falls for one of the laves, Mehuru.

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I always compare Philippa Gregory to Celine Dion: despite their undeniable talent, people always enjoy dismissing them as inferior artists and I am left to wonder why.

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I entere into his ook with some expectation that it could be etter than " Fallen Skies, " which left me greatly disappointed with the sketchy characterizations.

But this book read fast ( a yea) and I heckled it to hold my interest, so the entertainment value was high.I hear her Tudor novels are good, so I 'll stick with this author for another go.

hat experience made me econsider my attitude towards continuing to read Gregory and I ow look forward to reading more of her books and even re-attempt Fallen Skies.

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I like Philippa Gregory a lot- she reminds me of th historical Jackie Collins.

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© Nicole Waggonner