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Cambridge [Paperback]

Caryl Phillips
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 7.61 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 May 2008
Cambridge is a powerful and haunting novel set in that uneasy time between the abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation of the slaves. It is the story of Emily Cartwright, a young woman sent from England to visit her father's West Indian plantation, and Cambridge, a plantation slave, educated and Christianised by his first master in England and now struggling to maintain his dignity.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099520567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099520566
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.8 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 351,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A striking novel that pushes you dizzily into another time and place... Reading it is like being in the middle of a vibrant dream" (Sunday Times)

"Phillips points up the hypocrisy and humiliation of a society at breaking point; revealing it with subtlety, humour and humanity" (Sunday Telegraph)

"Caryl Phillips has proved himself to be among the best and most productive writers of his generation...with Cambridge he takes a firm step towards joining the company of the literary giants of our time" (New York Times)

"This powerful, seductively readable book, set in a 19th century slave plantation, finally puts the sickening realities of the slave trade firmly on the map" (Guardian)

"Phillips is a linguistic and cultural virtuoso" (The Times)

Book Description

Dramatic and challenging novel about freedom and prejudice by the winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous 12 Jun 2001
By A Customer
SET firmly and with a sustained and vivid sensuous immediacy in the 19th century, and taking place mostly in the exotic world of the British West Indies though some scenes are set in London and the English countryside, "Cambridge" tells two stories that are closely related, indeed inextricably joined in time and place.
These two stories ought to be one (and are united in the novel), but prove to be more separate than the central characters are able to imagine, because of a multitude of assumptions, prejudices and fundamental misapprehensions that isolate individuals not so much from one another as from the possibility of any clear and present understanding of others' motives, actions or points of view. These personal and social misunderstandings lead inexorably to tragedy. At the center of the human tragedy is the institution of slavery, by then unlawful in Britain but still practiced legally in the West Indies.
Among many credible, well-realized characters, black and white, the two major figures are a sensitive and thoughtful Englishwoman, unmarried and "almost 30," Emily Cartwright, and a proud and powerful slave called Cambridge, who lives on her father's plantation and whom Emily dubs Hercules in the privacy of her diary. In a story with layers of irony, it is ironic that Cambridge never knows about Emily's nickname for him. Nor can she ever know the names that he has had -- his "true Guinea name, Olumide"; his first slave name, Thomas; his Christian name, under which he preached as a missionary in England, David Henderson. She, in fact, knows next to nothing of his personal history and she figures less in his life and thoughts than she imagines.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Uni purchase. 13 Dec 2013
By Dolly27
Bought as part of my uni course. It was a fair price and delivered in good time. Have to admit, I haven't read past the first few pages but has been fairly enjoyable so far.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging piece of fiction 6 Dec 2009
I noticed an earlier review stated the book was innacurate regarding the going-ons of the slave trade. That may be true, hence why this book is a piece of fiction. Cambridge is a well written book and each section leaves the reader with many questions at the end. The idea that the slave owner has some 100+ pages to speak of monotonous tasks of her time on the plantation as opposed to Cambridge's 30-odd pages to give an account of his life represents how little the value of slaves lives were considered to be. This is also noticeable in the way that Phillips (it seems intentionally) has chosen to write the slave owners journal as bland as possible, whilst providing part 2 of the book with such incredible enthusiasm. The messages and ideas that Caryl Phillips were trying to present are evident in this book, but the first section is extremely drab and some readers may find themselves putting the book down.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I initially liked the diary style of the book but after a while it became clunky. It appeared the author did too as it seemed to be dropped part the way through and the language slipped into more modern cloquial terms.
I thought Cambridge's perspective was brilliant and should be read by children trying to understand the slave trade and all it's horrors.
It was interesting to have a slave owners perspective but she did come across as incredibly shallow. This may of course be intentional!!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cliched 22 Oct 2003
By N. Chin
I thought the book read as a series of excerpts from 'Eric Williams: Columbus to Castro', 'Lady Nugent's Journal of her Residence in Jamaica from 1801 to 1805: Phillip Wright', and 'The Life of Ouladah Equiano'. Not enough original material or exploration of the characters. Like another novel set around slavery, 'Valerie Martin's Property' I thought the book was cliched and unable to develop rich enough characters to generate something unique. Read the original material if you're interested in the historical context.
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