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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 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, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.


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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 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, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

30 review for Sugar Money

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    Sugar Money is a very well written historical fiction that is based on a real even to that took place in Grenada 1765. Not knowing that much about the Caribbean I decided to pick this one up. I'm glad I did despite some of the torturous passages I read to read about the brutality the English put the slaves through. Chilling and horrific! This book is well worth the read and informed me on a bit of this period, 18th century Caribbean and slavery there. The story is full of suspense for the reader Sugar Money is a very well written historical fiction that is based on a real even to that took place in Grenada 1765. Not knowing that much about the Caribbean I decided to pick this one up. I'm glad I did despite some of the torturous passages I read to read about the brutality the English put the slaves through. Chilling and horrific! This book is well worth the read and informed me on a bit of this period, 18th century Caribbean and slavery there. The story is full of suspense for the reader. You'll want to continue to find out if Emile and Lucien manage to pull off this feat with success. Very happy that my 2017 ended on a really good book. I definitely recommend to people who like reading well-written historical fiction novels.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Unfinished I had this book as a group read and after 160 pages I gave up. I couldn't get into the story of slavery and its graphic portrayal. The pace of the book was so slow that I just wanted to jump to the last page and close the cover. The life has been sucked out of me so I'm going to stop here. Unfinished I had this book as a group read and after 160 pages I gave up. I couldn't get into the story of slavery and its graphic portrayal. The pace of the book was so slow that I just wanted to jump to the last page and close the cover. The life has been sucked out of me so I'm going to stop here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Falk

    This is one of those saddening times in history, specifically, for the inhumane treatment of people (slaves) on the islands of Granada and Martinique. The author allowed me to eavesdrop into the story that contained snippets of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals) of the period. Nicely done. Unthinkable punishment was routinely doled out for even the most minor offenses. Horrifying beyond imagination. This strong character-driven storyli This is one of those saddening times in history, specifically, for the inhumane treatment of people (slaves) on the islands of Granada and Martinique. The author allowed me to eavesdrop into the story that contained snippets of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals) of the period. Nicely done. Unthinkable punishment was routinely doled out for even the most minor offenses. Horrifying beyond imagination. This strong character-driven storyline focused on two brothers. Slaves. The younger brother, Lucien, delivered the first person narrative of this well written, heartbreaking tale. Emile, age 28 and younger brother Lucien, age 12 were slaves in Martinique - French colony of the Western Antilles. They'd been ordered by a friar to voyage by sea to Granada - purpose, liberate many slaves held captive by the English and return them to Martinique. Their Homeland. Easier said than done. Demand for additional labor was desperately needed in Martinique for harvesting the island's major resource - sugar cane. Sugar was money. Upon reaching Granada, while in hiding, the brothers secretly made contact with many of the slaves destined to be returned home. Their plight was perilous. The time to escape had been carefully planned. It's execution had to go just right in order to succeed. In the end, it was a race against time. A race fraught with much danger. Life or death. Jane Harris spent considerable time and effort to her research into this rather short period in time. A few weeks in December, 1765. She went to Granada and followed the actual paths, traveled the historic roads and visited the landmark locations that gave rise to "Sugar Money". Pleasing to the senses, I was enraptured with the colloquialism delightfully found within the narrative. To name just two: "quick-sharp" - something done right away. "Kill-Devil" - their honored Island rum. My thanks for reconstructing these historic events and bringing it all to light. My gratitude sent to NetGalley and Arcade-Skyhorse Publishing for this ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    3.5/5 stars. When I started reading this book, I thought there was a spelling error. Then I found another one on the same page, and when I found a third one I realized that this was done on purpose. In other words, I quickly realized that the personal tone of voice and the language plays a huge role in “Sugar Money”, and I loved it. This book is about two brothers living in Martinique in the 1700s. Emile is 28 years old, and Lucien is only 14 which makes him the youngest and therefore the one to 3.5/5 stars. When I started reading this book, I thought there was a spelling error. Then I found another one on the same page, and when I found a third one I realized that this was done on purpose. In other words, I quickly realized that the personal tone of voice and the language plays a huge role in “Sugar Money”, and I loved it. This book is about two brothers living in Martinique in the 1700s. Emile is 28 years old, and Lucien is only 14 which makes him the youngest and therefore the one to look up very much to his big brother. When the brothers are sent on a mission to Grenada, a neighbouring Island, Lucien views this as a grand adventure that will finally allow for him to outlive his dreams and follow in the footsteps of his pirate idols. However, Emile is very apprehensive because he knows the absolute dangers of this mission, however much he tries to hide that from his little brother. This book is based on facts, but intertwined with these we get a story about brotherhood and growing up under dire circumstances. I loved a lot about the story, but there were also some things about it that decreased my reading pleasure a tiny little bit. This is mostly due to personal preferences as I’m very hard to please when it comes to adventure stories in general. Nevertheless, this one sat very well with me however devastating it was, and it’s one that’s definitely gotten me intrigued in reading more by Jane Harris.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    4.5 stars rounded up. The main character Lucien, a 12 year old slave from Martinique, is a highly charismatic and likeable character. The events in this story are based on a true account of an attempted escape of slaves. Lucien, with his love for the cows with the velvety ears on Martinique, his bravery and loyalty attempting to save his brother, and his gorgeous blend of Creole, French , English and a whole lexicon of made up words, was a delight.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Well written, engrossing and nearly impossible to put down.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Now I have to start this review with an embarrassing confession – I had seen the title of this book mentioned in several end of year reviews and tipped for the Women’s Prize. Subconsciously though I had read the author as Joanne Harris – most famously author of Chocolat (a novel made into a film about a single mother opening a chocolaterie in Rural France – a broad sweet food-based theme she picked up in later books) and I assumed from the title that this novel would follow in a similar theme – Now I have to start this review with an embarrassing confession – I had seen the title of this book mentioned in several end of year reviews and tipped for the Women’s Prize. Subconsciously though I had read the author as Joanne Harris – most famously author of Chocolat (a novel made into a film about a single mother opening a chocolaterie in Rural France – a broad sweet food-based theme she picked up in later books) and I assumed from the title that this novel would follow in a similar theme – perhaps around a small shop selling sweets. In fact the book is by Jane Harris – whose debut novel The Observations was shortlisted for the Orange Prize – and has been described as a rollicking and funny but dark Victorian pastiche. Her second novel Gillespie and I was also longlisted for the Orange Prize. And while this, Harris’s third novel, is around the making of money from the sale of sugar, it is instead based on the slave-fuelled sugar trade of the West Indies in the 18th Century. The story draws on true events in 1765 on the Islands of (French-owned) Martinique and (occupied by the English in 1763) Grenada, shortly after a truce is signed between the two nations. Two mulatto brothers Emile and the much younger Lucien are asked by a mendicant Friar to travel to a hospital and sugar plantation in Grenada, once owned by the French Friars but now overseen by the English. Emile and Lucien are the bastard sons, via rape, of the previous cruel French overseer of the hospital and plantation in Grenada. Their task is to try and persuade some previously French-owned slaves there to flee from their tyrannical English and Scottish masters (who also are actively suppressing their French influenced speech and culture) and return with them to Martinique – although only as slaves there. These new Fathers over there in St Pierre, they’re just white men from Europe same as any other. Lefebure, from what I hear is only interested in making rum. What that suggest to me is, he will do whatever is necessary to get sugar. He’ll work you hard. And Cleophas is no saint. Most of you met him when he was here. You know the kind of man he is. He only wants sugar money. That’s why they [the French] need you [in Martinique] The brothers have a Power of Attorney setting out the French claim to the slaves as being in their possession – but its clear that the English are very unlikely to recognise its validity and so effectively the brothers are asked to smuggle the slaves away across the Island. The book is recounted (we later learn as a written account many years later) by Lucien – in a distinctive colloquial style, scattered with Creole (we later learn translated from the original which was written in a mix of English, French and Creole). Lucien is simultaneously in awe of his older brother, particularly after discovering his role in some battles on Martinique, and resentful of his brother’s protective attitude towards him which often shades into condescension. The two’s relationship is complicated by them seeing in each other traces of their “vile devil of a father”, although for me one of the most memorable images of the novel is when Lucien recounts that after the two fight Emile grab me by the shoulders and said through his teeth: Remember our mother. Her blood flows in our veins too, just as much as his. We never have to be like him, not ever. So that we realise that the brothers are ashamed of the white part of their heritage. One of Emile’s motivations for returning to Martinique (albeit his slave status gives him little choice) is to meet again his love Celeste (who he was parted from years earlier when taken to Martinique) only to find she is pregnant, seemingly via the English doctor who runs the hospital. Celeste played an important role in bringing up Lucien who loves her deeply, and the complex relationships between the three is the key dynamic of the novel. The book is, like Harris’s first novel, told effectively as a rollicking adventure tale – with very detailed accounts of the brothers’ adventures on the Island, which I often found myself skipping. Particularly early on, the adventurous nature of the brother’s quest can seem to obscure the reality of their status as slaves; although, particularly when the brothers reach the sugar plantation in Grenada, the appalling cruelty of the English (and Scottish) treatment of the slaves breaks through in occasional horrific details of some of the punishments meted out to errant slaves. Yes [Raymond] said But for true it has to be better than here [in Grenada, with the English]. Every day now we wondering – who will be next. What will they chop off? Will it be a finger, toe, a hand or a foot? Who will lose his head? How will they torture us? What terrible thing will they make us do? What will they make us eat? Our own ears or worse. Overall this book was a little too much of an adventure book for my tastes – however there is much to admire in the conception of the novel and in particular Harris’s braveness in telling the tale, fully conscious that she could be accused of cultural appropriation. Certainly for a British audience, a slavery tale which is set in the Caribbean; and one in which the English (and Scottish – an deliberate decision on Harris’s part was to identify the role of the Scottish in slavery in the sugar plantations) are seen by the slaves as the worst of all possible masters; makes an arresting contrast to the number of recent slavery-based novels appearing on literary prizes which are typically set in the Southern states of America.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    At first I was reluctant to request Sugar Money because I'm a weakling at handling slavery stories sometimes. I turn into a puddle of sobs. But, despite being quite detailed about the hardships of slave life in 1765, it was a very engaging read. It doesn't have a very happy ending, as you might surmise, but it tells a story worth hearing, told very soberly and matter-of-factly. You can also read this review on my blog. The Story Is Very Soberly Told [image error] Despite being a slavery st At first I was reluctant to request Sugar Money because I'm a weakling at handling slavery stories sometimes. I turn into a puddle of sobs. But, despite being quite detailed about the hardships of slave life in 1765, it was a very engaging read. It doesn't have a very happy ending, as you might surmise, but it tells a story worth hearing, told very soberly and matter-of-factly. You can also read this review on my blog. The Story Is Very Soberly Told [image error] Despite being a slavery story, it doesn't contain a lot of drama. Pain, suffering and despair are usually the things that destroy me in slavery stories - but in this book, it's all told so soberly. In the end, it makes sense that even though life is pretty damn horrifying, those people would not be alive if they didn't learn to live with it - the human spirit doesn't fare well, unless it adjusts. A person can't keep reacting to horror dramatically. I felt like it made the story extra believable - it being told like that. The story is also told through Lucien's point of view, and he is a young teen when the events take place. I feel like telling it that way really works well for a male character's point of view as well. The Actual 'Happening' Part Is Very Tense I was listening to this book on text to speech, and actually, as I was going, I had to pretty much max out the speed - so I could just find out what happens. The story really does keep you on edge, when things start rolling! At times, it was even a little bit much. But definitely in an enjoyable way - I could just not put it down. Not Dramatic, But Definitely Emotional Despite not containing a lot of drama, like I said earlier, there's still emotion. The author has walked a whole 'nother mile, creating backstories to Sugar Money. The stories of why the slaves are where they are. Of why the main characters have these memories, these feelings. Of who they grew up with, who they fell in love with, and... lost. All of these paint a really engrossing image of the community and life for these people. It will also tug at your heartstrings for sure. I really loved the backstory of Emile and Celeste. It also gave me all the #FEELS. It's Kind Of Between Fiction And Nonfiction If you're a nonfiction fan, I think you would really enjoy this story. It's definitely still fiction - but it's based on true events and it doesn't feel like the story strays too far from them. You can truly feel the research the author has done, and all the settings are painted in good detail. The sober tone that I've mentioned before really does give it a feel of reading a history book, but not a dry one at all. It's also an important topic to talk about, so I feel like the author has picked an amazing setting and historical event to write this based on. In the end, the point it makes is that even if a slave trusts their owner, it's just an owner - and they will sell them out. Owning a slave and treating them well is not a merit - in the end, it's still just owning a slave. And owning another person is not something a human being should do. But Beware Of The Triggers Well, obviously - it's a slavery book. Expect rape, murder, torture, bodily harm and all that. I don't feel like I need to go in more detail. It's not told dramatically, but it's told in detail >(although no rape happpens, it's just talked about as an event that took part in the past.) I thank Arcade Publishing for giving me a free copy of the book in exchange to my honest opinion. Receiving the book for free does not affect my opinion. Read Post On My Blog | My Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    I mainly picked this book up because it is longlisted for the Walter Scott Award in 2018. I am fairly certain, I would have not picked it up otherwise as the other two books by Jane Harris were just ok for me. I am so glad, that I did pick it up though because this certainly had the wow factor for me. The story focuses on two slaves who have been charged by their owner to retrieve some slaves from a neighboring island which is now under British rule. It is a fool's errand and dangerous, but bein I mainly picked this book up because it is longlisted for the Walter Scott Award in 2018. I am fairly certain, I would have not picked it up otherwise as the other two books by Jane Harris were just ok for me. I am so glad, that I did pick it up though because this certainly had the wow factor for me. The story focuses on two slaves who have been charged by their owner to retrieve some slaves from a neighboring island which is now under British rule. It is a fool's errand and dangerous, but being slaves they have no way of saying no or getting out of it. The story is told in a way that breaks your heart but does not allow you to wallow in any melodrama, there is no sugar sweetness here, no tear jerking, no cry buttons that are being pressed. And I guess that's why some people found the characters to be remote, we are so used to that type of horrific historical fiction to trigger a "weep" response. This is not a tear jerker, this is a book that shows you what the reality of those lives could have been like. Horrific, brutal, de-humanising. Not an easy read, well worth being longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Find more reviews like this plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts on my blog: https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com/ There were a number of things that attracted me to Sugar Money. Firstly, it’s one of the six books shortlisted for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2018 – always an excellent hallmark for quality historical fiction – and I’m attempting to read all the shortlisted books before the winner is announced on 16th June 2018. Secondly, t Find more reviews like this plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts on my blog: https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com/ There were a number of things that attracted me to Sugar Money. Firstly, it’s one of the six books shortlisted for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2018 – always an excellent hallmark for quality historical fiction – and I’m attempting to read all the shortlisted books before the winner is announced on 16th June 2018. Secondly, the book’s setting on the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Grenada. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both those islands - admittedly only for a day as part of a cruise itinerary - but I remember loving Grenada, particularly the colourful market in the capital, St George’s, (referred to by its previous name Fort Royal in the book) with the smell of spices in the air. In fact, I’m still using the nutmeg and mace I bought there. Thirdly, I read Jane Harris’s first book, The Observations, some time ago but remember being captivated by its quirky narrator, Bessy. Jane Harris repeats that feat in Sugar Money. The narrator, Lucien, engages the reader from the start with his distinctive mode of speech that is a mixture of English, Creole, French and his own individual way of describing people, places, events and his own feelings. For example, after taking perhaps slightly too much rum: ‘Indeed, after several further swig, I came over all misty inside and considered myself to be quite invincible.’ I think many of us may have experienced the feeling of being ‘all misty inside’ after a touch too much to drink. There’s some lovely humour as well. During the voyage to Grenada in the rather dilapidated vessel owned by the strange Captain Bianco, Lucien observes a shooting star. ‘Magical sight. Perhaps it were a good omen. For a brief instant, I allowed myself to feel encouraged. But as the star died, trailing silver embers, old Bianco let flee a fart, startling as a blast of musketry, and the precious moment was ruined.’ I laughed out loud at that. I also really liked the touching relationship between Lucien and Emile. Lucien looks up to his older brother but at the same time he is an acute observer of his moods and innermost thoughts. There might be a good deal of disputation and quarrelling but underneath there is loyalty and a real bond of love and affection. As he says, ‘I found myself too much in simple-hearted awe and adoration of my brother.’ In Sugar Money the author has taken what might be considered a footnote in Caribbean history and fashioned it into an adventure story crammed full of realistic detail. The reader gets a detailed account of the preparations for the mission the two brothers have been given, including the process of convincing the slaves to take part and the discussion about how the escape will be managed. I’ll confess there were times when I felt I was getting a little too much detail and the pace of the book slowed a bit but once the plan is under way the tension definitely builds again. Behind the adventure story is a chilling depiction of the dreadful atrocities of slavery and the appalling life endured by the plantation slaves. Worked to exhaustion, surviving on meagre food, subjected to the vilest and most cruel punishments, the women frequently the subject of sexual abuse, it is a life of misery and early death. For the slaves of the hospital plantation in Grenada, what is on offer is the opportunity to escape the harsh conditions they are currently enduring in the hope of slightly less harsh conditions on Martinique. The change of location does not offer them the prospect of freedom. They will still be the possessions of someone else, put to work for the benefit of their owners with no say over their lives. In effect, they are being repossessed like objects. Furthermore, there are dire consequences for the slaves should the plan be discovered. Sugar Money is both a compelling adventure story and a powerful indictment of the cruelties of the slave trade. I really did feel myself transported back to 18th century Grenada with its sights, sounds and smells conjured up brilliantly. In Lucien, the author has proved once again her remarkable ability to create a distinctive, original and engaging narrative voice.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Not to be missed. I Recommend to anyone who enjoys history and learning about slavery in different lands. It’s a punch in the gut page turner. Ms. Harris, unlike many others who write about the slave trade, didn't leave out the gore and deplorable treatment of the slaves. She showed how manipulations of the greedy Friars led others to their deaths. Harris writes where you can understand and sympathize with the slaves, like when they decide not to escape to Martinique. It is a well written story Not to be missed. I Recommend to anyone who enjoys history and learning about slavery in different lands. It’s a punch in the gut page turner. Ms. Harris, unlike many others who write about the slave trade, didn't leave out the gore and deplorable treatment of the slaves. She showed how manipulations of the greedy Friars led others to their deaths. Harris writes where you can understand and sympathize with the slaves, like when they decide not to escape to Martinique. It is a well written story that I won't soon forget. You will be on pins and needles rooting for Emile, Lucien and Celeste. Emile! Emile! I find myself calling him as well. Over seer Belle Friar Cleophas Mr White Lucien Emile Celeste Martinique Grenada

  12. 5 out of 5

    KarenK

    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. From the blurb, "Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission". The language was absolutely unique to this story, using pieces and fragments of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals). Good book. 4☆ I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. From the blurb, "Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission". The language was absolutely unique to this story, using pieces and fragments of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals). Good book. 4☆

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Weird book serendipity: I happened to read two novels set among the slaves of a Martinique sugar plantation and incorporating snippets of Creole language at the same time. (The other was Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French.) What are the odds?! If you’ve also read her first two novels, you’ll know that Harris writes rollicking and utterly convincing historical fiction, and here you can’t help but fall in love with the voice of 13-year-old Lucien. To render his no (3.5) Weird book serendipity: I happened to read two novels set among the slaves of a Martinique sugar plantation and incorporating snippets of Creole language at the same time. (The other was Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French.) What are the odds?! If you’ve also read her first two novels, you’ll know that Harris writes rollicking and utterly convincing historical fiction, and here you can’t help but fall in love with the voice of 13-year-old Lucien. To render his non-standard speech, Harris is inconsistent with his plurals and past tenses, and adds the odd line in Creole, which she either repeats in English or leaves you to understand from the context (usually easy enough, especially if you have some French – a lot is phonetic.) Along with his older brother Emile, Lucien gets roped into their French master’s plan to steal 42 slaves back from their new English masters on the brothers’ home island of Grenada and escape by ship back to Martinique on Christmas Eve 1765. They even bear a written deed that apparently gives the French permission to take back their property. Of course, it was never going to be as simple as just walking up and taking what they want. Lucien and Emile have many perils to face. While I read the whole novel with interest, I felt the chapters set on Grenada were awfully slow; Harris could easily have lost 100 pages and streamlined the preparations for the slaves’ exodus. Also, the book turns rather dark. I’d liken it to Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie, which similarly starts off as a lively adventure story that then goes bleak. Here the editor’s note helps to brighten the picture a bit, but don’t expect a happy-go-lucky story where everyone gets off scot-free. Favorite passages: “Having despatch a good slug of tawny liquor, Bianco cork the jug and began to rummage in his lower garments, presently pulling out a long knob, both fleshy and scaly, deformed by protuberances. The sight of this thing emerging from his britches pocket unsettle me greatly until I realise with relief that it was not attach to his person. Thuswise was solve the mystery of what had cause the bulge in his inexpressibles: only a large hand of root ginger.” “Say what you like about my brother but his eyes so sharp he could see two flea fornicating on a rat in the dark.” (this line in particular reminded me of Slave Old Man) “Years hence, some fellow might stumble upon the huddle of my bleach bones and wonder who I had been in life.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Is it possible to combine literary historical fiction that focuses on yet another instance of man’s inhumanity to man with a gripping adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats? Before reading Sugar Money, I would have voted “no”. Horrific tragedies like the horrors of Caribbean slavery in the 1700s cannot and should not be minimized. And yet, Jane Harris pulls off this feat, so that at no time is the reader not invested in the human cost of this endeavor. The storyline – inspired by Is it possible to combine literary historical fiction that focuses on yet another instance of man’s inhumanity to man with a gripping adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats? Before reading Sugar Money, I would have voted “no”. Horrific tragedies like the horrors of Caribbean slavery in the 1700s cannot and should not be minimized. And yet, Jane Harris pulls off this feat, so that at no time is the reader not invested in the human cost of this endeavor. The storyline – inspired by reality – is this: a group of French surgeon-monks, situated in Martinique, plot to recover their “property” that they “lost” after being expelled from nearby Grenada. Grenada is now under the management of the British, who are even more brutal “masters” than the French – and Jane Harris does not shy away from describing their atrocities. It’s all about obtaining forced labor for their sugar plantations – hence, the title, Sugar Money. Chosen to execute this plot is Emile, a mulatto man in his late 20s, who is asked to convince the slaves to follow him to a waiting ship as their masters indulge in Christmas revelries. It is a fool’s journey and he is also forced to take along his kid brother, Lucien, our narrator, who is barely entering his teens. Refusal is not an option. The concept works because Lucien is still somewhat of an innocent, worshipful of his brother, desirous of proving his budding manhood, not totally understanding that the world is stacked so heavily against the disenfranchised. In his mind, his brother can do anything he sets his mind to do. The narration, written in a idiosyncratic English with Creole accents, is beautifully rendered; for true, Jane Harris is a ventriloquist. There will, I suspect, be outcries of appropriation: can a white woman be the voice of a young slave-boy? I believe that there should be no boundaries on creative expression. (William Styron, a non-Jew, wrote one of the most affecting novels of Holocaust literature with Sophie’s Choice). Judged entirely on its own merits, this daring novel of a little-known historical rebellion works. And it reconfirms the inner courage and tenacity of spirit that often – but not always – enables good forces to prevail.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    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 voic 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. https://randomthingsthroughmyletterbo...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Allison M

    5 stars for this novel about slavery in Grenada and Martinique. I don't think I can convey how good this novel is. Jane Harris is the writer of The Observations and Gillespie & I, both of which are memorable and wonderful, so I had very high expectations for Sugar Money - and my expectations have been surpassed, by a country mile. It is 1765. Our narrator is Lucien, who may be thirteen or only ten years old but hopes to pass for sixteen. He is a slave, living on Martinique with his French masters 5 stars for this novel about slavery in Grenada and Martinique. I don't think I can convey how good this novel is. Jane Harris is the writer of The Observations and Gillespie & I, both of which are memorable and wonderful, so I had very high expectations for Sugar Money - and my expectations have been surpassed, by a country mile. It is 1765. Our narrator is Lucien, who may be thirteen or only ten years old but hopes to pass for sixteen. He is a slave, living on Martinique with his French masters after they are forced to leave Grenada by British forces. Lucien's voice is incredible: I read and re-read passages to drink in his words; usually I devour good books in greedy gulps but this novel I needed to savour. Lucien talks a beguiling mix of French, English and Creole, in a juxtaposition of idioms with some stiffly formal language into which he breathes life. As well as this, Lucien's narration comprises a mixture of the jealousies, pride and imagined slights of a child or adolescent alongside more adult concerns and thoughts. Lucien's is a forthright, hotheaded and utterly authentic narrative voice (and he is utterly loveable too). Sugar Money recounts Lucien and his older brother Emile's near-impossible mission to bring back slaves left behind on Grenada, some forty people who are now enslaved by the British. Lucien and the other slaves are owned by les Freres de la Charite who want slaves to replace those who are sickening and dying, in order to tend the sugar plantation and start a distillery. Unwilling to risk their own lives, they send the brothers. And so begins what Lucien hopes will be an adventure that allows him to spend time with the brother he idolises. The brothers' relationship is exquisitely drawn, with Emile's inarticulate, paternal worry and love for Lucien contrasting with Lucien's need for admiration and love from Emile. Much of the beauty in the book comes from the relationships between the brothers, and between the slaves as a family they construct for themselves under 'grandparents' Angelique and Chevallier. The book also looks unflinchingly at ugly inhumanity. There is an examination of the treatment of slaves, involving immense physical punishments and cruel tortures driving some slaves to mental breakdown. The abuse and rape of female slaves is exposed as commonplace, with resulting paler-skinned 'mulatto' children. I was particularly moved by the story of Miss Praxede, who was made housekeeper and mistress of Dr Maillard until he replaced her with Zabette, a teenage girl. Praxede, aged 'near fifty', was sold on to one of 'those new Scotchmen - Mister Mac-Something', and when she ran away from her new owner was killed by being shot in the back. This is one of many atrocities. The French slavers treat their slaves very badly but time and again we are told and shown that 'the Goddams (the English)' are even more cruel. And in fact many of these 'English' in Sugar Money are Scots: there are Scottish plantation owners, overseers and soldiers in the book. Sugar Money is based on a true story. It is a story that is saddening and sickening but it is told with great beauty, with an outstanding narrative voice, and it is an important story. Even the cover of Sugar Money excels, with its eye-catching, gorgeous design. Buy this book! I received this book free from Faber & Faber.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Revill

    I listened to the audiobook version of this book. Exceptional well written book. Highly recommended.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I've not enjoyed a book this much in YEARS! It's completely rekindled my love of historical fiction. Jane Harris deals with a period in history, that is truly shameful and horrifying, with grace and without too much whitewashing, although I think there was a little... Our narrator is 12 year old Lucien and I have to say that I've never read a book with such a rounded, believable, non-irritating, child narrator. He is wise beyond his years, speaks with broken English, has childish moments that rem I've not enjoyed a book this much in YEARS! It's completely rekindled my love of historical fiction. Jane Harris deals with a period in history, that is truly shameful and horrifying, with grace and without too much whitewashing, although I think there was a little... Our narrator is 12 year old Lucien and I have to say that I've never read a book with such a rounded, believable, non-irritating, child narrator. He is wise beyond his years, speaks with broken English, has childish moments that remind you he is just 12, and yet he carries this story perfectly. I always worry about first person narration, especially from a child's point of view, that we won't get a sense of place. Or if we do, it will seem forced, but his voice never feels like a gimmick, never irritates and the descriptions of the landscape were fitting and evocative. I think it was perfect actually. My ears strain to discern any sound beyond the massed flutes and recorders of a million frogs and insects. Now and then, fireflies sparkle past my face like fragments of charcoal carried on the breeze. There is a sense of foreboding throughout the novel. As soon as they are given the mission by the friars, armed with a power of attorney that neither of them can read properly, you just know it won't have a happy ending. The brothers blossoming relationship, through Lucille's eyes, makes this book even harder to read and at points I really didn't want to finish it, knowing it would be tough. 'Well done bug,' he said. 'Good man.' Well, that was the first time he had ever call me a man. My heart swelled up like a globefish. Now. Onto the potential whitewashing, I'm still not sure. This is a tricky one. On the one hand I believe this could have been a conscious decision. By narrating from Lucien's point of view perhaps we are protected from some of the horrors the brothers encounter. We know Lucien has been whipped in the past as he has the scars from it, but you get the impression his brother has been through a lot worse. When Lucien does witness some of the brutality later on in the book it is all the more shocking precisely because we haven't encountered it yet. We are reminded that the slaves are simply being offered life as slaves somewhere else, but without being told the horrors that Lucien and Emile face on their own island it's hard not to get caught up in the feeling that they're on a rescue mission. Again, this could be entirely consciously done to emphasise how the other slaves may be feeling, or Jane Harris has actively avoided the brutality of the time in order for the book to be and enjoyable romp. It would make a blumming great book club read let's put it that way. The ending was disappointing for me. The book didn't end in the right place as far as I was concerned. For those that have read it, I could have done without the neatly tied up, afterword type letters at the end. I think the reader could have come to their own conclusions as to what fate our protagonist ultimately meets. These criticisms did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I thought it was fantastic and has quickly shot up to one of my favourite historical fiction reads of all time. I want to read more about the slave trade, I am shamefully ignorant so if anyone can recommend any further reading I would appreciate it. My full reviews appear on my blog Notes to the Moon.

  19. 4 out of 5

    SueKich

    “Cane is sugar, sugar is money.” This is a simple enough tale made somewhat challenging to read by the fact that it is recounted in a Creole patois, rendered here as kréyòl - this, rather patchily handled. Set in the Caribbean in the year 1765, it is based on a true story: Young narrator Lucien and his beloved older brother Emile are sent from Martinique to Grenada on a dangerous mission to retrieve forty-two French slaves plundered by the English. Jane Harris is the author of two outstanding nove “Cane is sugar, sugar is money.” This is a simple enough tale made somewhat challenging to read by the fact that it is recounted in a Creole patois, rendered here as kréyòl - this, rather patchily handled. Set in the Caribbean in the year 1765, it is based on a true story: Young narrator Lucien and his beloved older brother Emile are sent from Martinique to Grenada on a dangerous mission to retrieve forty-two French slaves plundered by the English. Jane Harris is the author of two outstanding novels, ‘The Observations’ and ‘Gillespie and I’, but for me this third one presents something of a puzzle. Its title leads one to expect an altogether different kind of story, one more concerned with the financial politics of the sugar plantations. Slow-going, predictable and also, in my view, slightly patronising, there is more fun to be had deciphering the phonic French than there is following this tiresome adventure.

  20. 5 out of 5

    June

    Sugar Money is based on an unpublished slave manuscript which details the events of slavery smuggling from Grenada to Martinique. Set in 1765, we are brought along by Lucien, a slave mulatto aged 12-14 who is commanded by Pere Cleophas along with his older brother Emile to retrieve slaves that were left on a hospital plantation in Grenada. The French Dominican priests fled to Martinique after Grenada was handed over to the British. Things are hard and the priests need help to make money through Sugar Money is based on an unpublished slave manuscript which details the events of slavery smuggling from Grenada to Martinique. Set in 1765, we are brought along by Lucien, a slave mulatto aged 12-14 who is commanded by Pere Cleophas along with his older brother Emile to retrieve slaves that were left on a hospital plantation in Grenada. The French Dominican priests fled to Martinique after Grenada was handed over to the British. Things are hard and the priests need help to make money through rum. I have mixed feelings about this book mainly in regard to authorship. Looking firstly at what works well is the choice, though not even sure choice is the right word, to use a young narrator. And Lucien is believable, from his scorn of those less intelligent than him, to his need to have the approval of his older brother as well as his wish to be seen as a man. Not to mention his naivety on certain aspects of slavery and justice. This story relies heavily on the bond between brothers sent to do a risky task. But the novel was a great look at a island that had two different slave masters and the treatment that ensued. So for someone looking for an introduction to this time period this would be an okay start. The salute to French, Kriol and English grounds the book well. There are some gritty and dark look at what slavery actually entailed. The physical and sexual abuses are not quite glossed over. I got the irony of the slave masters, especially those who felt themselves benign. Unfortunately, the afterword raised an issue for me, a black Caribbean reader. In times when there has been a clarion call for own voices, this book may have been better served by including the original author's name. I suspect that though the author used other research, it relied heavily on the unpublished manuscript and its translation. And I have to agree with Leone Ross review in The Guardian newspaper, the adventure approach seems to lessen the gravity of the trauma inflicted during slavery. And I noted the continuous comparison to Robert Stevenson's works by other blurbs. Like her, I suspect that this work will not have the endurance of other books which explore similar themes by black authors.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This one really caught me by surprise. For a somewhat dry subject, Harris keeps the narrative flowing fast and keeps the reader, completely engaged, with plenty of adventure and suspense. Historical fiction at it's finest. Looking forward to reading more of this author's work. This one really caught me by surprise. For a somewhat dry subject, Harris keeps the narrative flowing fast and keeps the reader, completely engaged, with plenty of adventure and suspense. Historical fiction at it's finest. Looking forward to reading more of this author's work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Abby Slater- Fairbrother

    “Cane is sugar, sugar is money” Emile This novel is almost like three separate novels in one! It is a sensational story of a brave adventure. Yet there are obviously added dark elements, due to the slavery theme. It is also a story of the bonds of brotherhood and love. It really will pull at your heart strings and you will root for brothers Lucien and Emile, with love and hope on every page! Firstly, to start my review, I should say this is a beautiful book cover. The maps on the inside of the c “Cane is sugar, sugar is money” Emile This novel is almost like three separate novels in one! It is a sensational story of a brave adventure. Yet there are obviously added dark elements, due to the slavery theme. It is also a story of the bonds of brotherhood and love. It really will pull at your heart strings and you will root for brothers Lucien and Emile, with love and hope on every page! Firstly, to start my review, I should say this is a beautiful book cover. The maps on the inside of the cover, give it the piracy and adventure feel. I am really glad I own a physical copy! I should also mention that this novel is based around a true story. The novel opens in St Pierre, Martinique, Western Antilles. In December 1765, the location and era is fully explored throughout the novel. The novel is told from the narrative of slave Lucien. He is summoned to the morgue by his master Father Cleophas. His master is content with hacking at the innards, of a dead field hands corpse. His older brother Emile is present and they are both unsure as to why. Lucien being the younger brother at just approximately 15 years old and Emile being approximately 30 years old. Their story of their ancestry and brotherhood, makes for quite the dark tale. Father Clophas gives them a long winded explanation of how he wants them to return to Grenada and bring back 42 slaves. He informs them how badly the English treat the slaves and that they are, his rightful property. They will be joined by a Spanish skipper named Captain Bianco, who is a deaf mute. The master is clever in how he lures the men into the mission. As he suggests that Emile will be reunited with lost love Celeste and that they may grow into old age together upon returning. There is some squabbling amongst the brothers and we learn Emile doesn’t wish for Lucien to sail. Father Cleophas is adamant that they must work together as Emile is more cunning, but Lucien speaks the necessary English for the journey. Never the less they sail on the morrow………… “Listen, Lucien. This is no adventure, nor a child game. Sometimes, I wonder if you still have the sense you came born with” Emile Throughout the sailing, between Lucien’s thoughts and the brother’s conversation. We learn of life with the Fathers and monks. We also learn the dark secret of their parentage, which is shocking. Lucien is wary of the risk they will take on their vessel ‘The Daisy’. Emile formalises the plan, they must speak to the slaves at night, under the cover of darkness. He is well aware of what will become of them, if they fail this mission. Whilst Lucien dreams of killing the skipper and sailing to Africa. Neither man is quite prepared for what they will experience on this journey. “No real harm could come to us while we were together” Lucien “I knew that nobody could break the bond of blood – good and bad- between us” Lucien The memories and conversations between the men about Celeste, are fascinating. We learn she means quite a lot to both men. Having raised Lucien and being Emile’s sole love interest. I could not what to find out what had become of her in the seven years apart. The journey, is insightful into the character development and I really liked both Lucien and Emile immensely. When they arrive at the island, they are reunited with some close friends and family. However, they also learn the fate of some and it does not make for easy reading. They learn of the punishments inflicted upon the slave. They are methodical, barbaric and designed to break the will of the slave. The pass a man naked, bones visible he is so starved. The man has a vacant expression, he is shackled with his ear nailed to the hut and has an ointment on to attract flies to bite him. You could imagine the sheer despair of the mind, at being forced to endure such a torturous punishment. This novel by no means, down plays slavery. The degradation, brutality and dehumanisation is fully explored. Exactly in my opinion, as it should be. Any novel that is written about slavery has a duty for it to be as an accurate portrayal as possible. I would say I found this similar in one sense to the violence portrayed in The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James. Another author, not afraid to depict slavery honestly. There is a part where you will learn the story of Marital Medicine. It is possibly one of the darkest things I have ever read. I was completely taken aback, with the levels of depravity slavery had. The men are reunited with friends including Angelique, Leotine, Therese, Lejeune and finally Celeste. But when their eyes meet Celeste they are left shocked to their core……… They are warned of a dangerous drunken overseer named Addison Bell. A man so insanely violent, he is feared by all….. “English been working us to death” – Angelquie “He could…. It could get us all killed” – Celeste The brothers get world out amongst the slave and begin to build a plan of the escape. This is no easy adventure and capture could be fatal. The novel continues at fast pace and you are left on the edge of your seat. I was genuinely trying to read as fast as I could. So that I could learn what will become of all the slaves including Lucien and Emile. It builds and builds, to an exceptionally emotional ending. I was left reeling and tearful at the same time. There is a note from the editor and an afterword by the author, which serve to add more depth to the characters, long after the novel is finished! A fantastic historical adventure story, that details the colonial history and pulls at the heart and soul. 5* “What I saw can never be unseen, never forgotten. All my life, over and over again, that same scene repeating in my mind” – Lucien *A Q&A with the author with the author is also available on my blog here: http://annebonnybookreviews.com/2017/...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    I am sorry to all of you who liked this book but I can not read anymore about man's inhumanity to man. When they were discussing an obviously factual slave situation in Grenada, I almost lost it when they described nailing the slaves ears to the barn wall and then cutting the ear off to release them but when they talked about putting excrement in their mouths, gagging them and then wiring their mouths shut, it was just too much for me. I hope someday to be able to erase this image from my mind. I am sorry to all of you who liked this book but I can not read anymore about man's inhumanity to man. When they were discussing an obviously factual slave situation in Grenada, I almost lost it when they described nailing the slaves ears to the barn wall and then cutting the ear off to release them but when they talked about putting excrement in their mouths, gagging them and then wiring their mouths shut, it was just too much for me. I hope someday to be able to erase this image from my mind. After page 150, I am done.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Bowyer

    It's been a few days since I finished reading  Sugar Money , Jane Harris's third novel. But I've still got Lucien, the 12-year-old narrator, chatting away inside my head in his mash-up of English, French and Creole. I'm still worried about whether he'll be okay. The characters in this book really do get under your skin that much. Inspired by a true story, Sugar Money is Lucien's account of his mission, alongside his much older half-brother, Emile, to smuggle forty-two slaves from British-ruled It's been a few days since I finished reading  Sugar Money , Jane Harris's third novel. But I've still got Lucien, the 12-year-old narrator, chatting away inside my head in his mash-up of English, French and Creole. I'm still worried about whether he'll be okay. The characters in this book really do get under your skin that much. Inspired by a true story, Sugar Money is Lucien's account of his mission, alongside his much older half-brother, Emile, to smuggle forty-two slaves from British-ruled Grenada to French-ruled Martinique 1765. Both brothers are slaves themselves and reluctantly embark on the extremely dangerous mission on the command of their French master, Father Cléophas. Lucien is a cocky, naive kid whose main dual concerns are to compete with his older brother and gain his approval. Emile simply wants to protect his younger brother, though as with younger brothers everywhere, this proves difficult. What follows is a strange mix of humour and horror. It becomes clear that as awful as the conditions are in French Martinique - beatings, hard labour and slavery passed on through the generations - Father Cléophas is confident the Grenada slaves will agree to attempt to escape with Emile and Lucien because their lives under British rule are even worse. The horror is muted somewhat through Lucien's eyes. Although he reports on it faithfully, he'll often be more interested in activities such as chatting up the nice young ladies wandering along the road ahead. Read the full review on my blog.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joanne-in-Canada

    Amazing historical thriller.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I came to this hot on the heels of reading Harris' Gillespie and I, which was fantastic. This one...not so much. The story concerns two slaves (Lucien and Emile) from 18th century Martinique sent on a dangerous mission by their French masters. Given the barbarism of slavery and the potential punishment that will await Lucien and Emile should they be caught, this book should have been edge-of-the-seat stuff. Instead, it was simply dull. For me there was a lack of pace throughout and I never felt I came to this hot on the heels of reading Harris' Gillespie and I, which was fantastic. This one...not so much. The story concerns two slaves (Lucien and Emile) from 18th century Martinique sent on a dangerous mission by their French masters. Given the barbarism of slavery and the potential punishment that will await Lucien and Emile should they be caught, this book should have been edge-of-the-seat stuff. Instead, it was simply dull. For me there was a lack of pace throughout and I never felt immersed in the story. There were some nice moments of humour and Lucien had the potential to be a great narrative voice but the novel just didn't work for me. Also, Emile was a likeable character but he felt a bit too good to be true and his saintly behaviour (view spoiler)[ rather telegraphed his eventual fate (hide spoiler)] .

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I chose to include Jane Harris' Sugar Money in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge, for the country of Grenada. I had been so looking forward to this novel, having very much enjoyed Harris' previous two books, but felt very disappointed. I got around a tenth of the way through, and simply was not feeling the hype; the novel is detached, and the settings are barely described at all. I did not want to give up on this, as I know how rewarding Harris' earlier books have been, but I had very li I chose to include Jane Harris' Sugar Money in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge, for the country of Grenada. I had been so looking forward to this novel, having very much enjoyed Harris' previous two books, but felt very disappointed. I got around a tenth of the way through, and simply was not feeling the hype; the novel is detached, and the settings are barely described at all. I did not want to give up on this, as I know how rewarding Harris' earlier books have been, but I had very little interest in the novel when I began to read it, and did not want to slog through the rest. I persevered with it as much as I could, but did not get pulled in, or become at all engaged with the story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Huge disappointment. Any fan of Jane Harris would say that this book is nowhere near as interesting and brilliant as her previous books. The language is flat. The plot is predictable. She lost her twinkle.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Actual rating is 4.5 stars. Wow! I was not expecting that! Having previously tried, and failed, to read one of the author's earlier books, 'The Observations', I went into this with modest expectations. Little did I know that, whilst not a perfect book, this would turn out to be one of my favourite reads of 2018. Based on a little known true story, 'Sugar Money is an intense, page-turning and thought provoking read that has a strong sense of time and place, as well as one of the most unique and me Actual rating is 4.5 stars. Wow! I was not expecting that! Having previously tried, and failed, to read one of the author's earlier books, 'The Observations', I went into this with modest expectations. Little did I know that, whilst not a perfect book, this would turn out to be one of my favourite reads of 2018. Based on a little known true story, 'Sugar Money is an intense, page-turning and thought provoking read that has a strong sense of time and place, as well as one of the most unique and memorable protagonists I have come across in a long time. Lucien is simply a marvel. I loved his narrative voice and the many layers to his character. However, the icing on the cake for me was his relationship with his older brother, Emile. Their interactions were often gently mocking yet obviously full of love and they added a whole new layer to the reading experience for me. I didn't expect humour in a story about slavery so the fact that some was included was a very pleasant surprise and helped to balance out the darker moments, of which there are a few. Emile is an intriguing and multi layered character in his own right, although he remains something of an enigma throughout, as are many of the supporting characters. They all add something to the story, be it good or bad, and I was fully invested in their plights throughout. Now for the negatives. This book let itself down slightly at the end in that I felt it wrapped up a bit too quickly. Events came to a dramatic head and then the book ended around 15 pages later. Although most plot points were addressed and resolved in those final few pages, there were a couple of things that were left unanswered and I would also have liked to have had more of an insight into certain characters future lives than the brief glimpse we were given. Maybe the author wanted to leave us room to create our own visions for the future for these characters, which is something I usually enjoy doing, but in this instance I don't think it quite worked out as it kept us a bit too distant from the characters. It's a bit of a shame because if the ending had been as strong as the rest of the book I would have given it 5 stars without hesitation. As things stand, I feel 4/4.5 stars is a more accurate rating. Despite this, it's still one of the best books I have read this year and one that I highly recommend picking up, particularly if you enjoy more character driven stories. Trigger warnings: There is some violence/brutality in this book, most of which is recollected by certain characters to other characters although there is the occasional bit that happens in the present. The author does not linger on any violence or brutality, nor makes it the centre of the story, but if you don't like reading about that kind of thing, be warned that it is in there.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jos M

    I had read a lot of positive reviews of this, but it seemed like a really tricky premise to pull off, so my expectations were not high. It was really excellent, thoughtful, well-observed, well-written, funny and tragic. It is about a time and place about which I know little, but there's not a learning curve in order to understand what is going on -- at least, I didn't find it so. In order to manage the high-wire act of the tone, Harris cleverly makes the narrator not the heroic, beautiful, roman I had read a lot of positive reviews of this, but it seemed like a really tricky premise to pull off, so my expectations were not high. It was really excellent, thoughtful, well-observed, well-written, funny and tragic. It is about a time and place about which I know little, but there's not a learning curve in order to understand what is going on -- at least, I didn't find it so. In order to manage the high-wire act of the tone, Harris cleverly makes the narrator not the heroic, beautiful, romantic Emile, but the child Lucien. There's some really great stuff with Lucien's voice here, he is looking back on this incident as an adult, but remembering himself as a child, we get a sense of what French and Creole feel like as languages without having to have that explained. Similarly deft, all the characterisations are really, really strong. We see the way the slave community bands together and helps each other, until they can't. We see what a wretched, desperate gamble this whole mad plan will be for them, and why they would stay and why they would leave. We also see how intensely corrupting slave-owning is for the Fathers of Charity, and what it does to them. In all, really strong.

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