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Equator [Paperback]

Miguel Sousa Tavares
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: £8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

21 Sep 2009
It is 1905 and Luis Bernardo Valenca, a thirty-seven-year-old bachelor and owner of a small shipping company, is revelling in Lisbon's luxurious high society. But his life is turned upside down when King Dom Carlos invites him to become governor of Portugal's smallest colony, the island of Sao Tome e Principe. Luis Bernardo is ill-prepared for the challenges of plantation life - used to a softer urban existence, he is shocked by the conditions under which the workers labour. But with the English closing in on Sao Tome's cocoa plantations, the island's main means of survival, Luis Bernardo must endeavour to protect the island and its community.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (21 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074759662X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747596622
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A gripping story, packed with blackmail, scandal, a passionate affair, gambling debts, a violent workers' revolt, intrigue, heartbreak, a courtroom drama and a gunshot in the night hard to resist' Independent 'There's everything: love, politics, solitude, treason and dignity in the equatorial languor' Il Corriere della Sera 'An exquisite love story' La Marseillaise

About the Author

Miguel Sousa Tavares was born in Oporto. He gave up a career in law to pursue journalism, after which he moved to more literary writing. He is the author of several books of non-fiction. Equador is his first novel, the product of a long period of maturation and historical research inspired by a complex chapter in Portuguese history.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Jackie
Equator begins in Portugal in 1905. King Dom Carlos is worried about British reports that slavery still exists on São Tomé and Príncipe and summons Luís Bernardo Valença, an intellectual who writes papers on the civilising effect Portugal has on it's colonies, to his court. The King sends Luís Bernardo Valença to assess the situation, forcing him to leave his shipping business and live on the remote island near the equator for three years.

Luís Bernardo Valença arrives on São Tomé and Príncipe to discover that the cocoa plantation owners have shipped people from Angola and employed them on a fixed term contract, meaning that they are not free to leave at the present time. This means that it is almost impossible to decide whether slavery exists or not.

Equator is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction, which brings up a complex discussion as to what constitutes slavery. I loved the brief glimpse of Portuguese court, and learning about it's colonies. This book has inspired me to read more about the history of Portugal, as I know very little about it.

I got slightly bored in the middle of the book when the British Consul arrived, and the book went into a bit too much political discussion for my taste, but the plot picked up again towards the end.

Overall, I found it to be a very interesting look at a period of history that I knew nothing about. Recommended to anyone who loves historical fiction.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, gripping story 21 Mar 2010
I found the first few chapters of this novel a little slow going, but then it suddenly burst into life with a drammatic change of literary style to suit the change in pace. Poetic intensity rises and falls in this text to match the intensity of plot development. It is also a novel of ideas and morals. The geographic landscape has much to interest the English reader, ranging from Portugal to the British Raj, and equatorial, colonial Sao Tome. The storyline is rich, full of romance and passion, but always simultaneously cerebral and highly literate. Definitely recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Slavery in Portuguese Africa 21 Aug 2013
Miguel Sousa Tavares has written a highly credible novel about a murky place and period in Portuguese colonial history. Yes, slaves were used in the coffee and cocoa plantations of these islands, and Portugal had the unenviable choice of dissembling, of pretending that slavery did not exist. Or the principled Quaker chocolate manufacturers in Britain would cease their purchase of São Tomé cocoa and buy instead from British West India producers. Hypocritical Britain may or may not have been using slaves in the West Indies, but they were certainly using slaves (or more properly indentured labourers) in the gold mines of South Africa. This indentured labour system became a hot political potato dominating the General election of 1906. And yes, the Quakers followed the lead of Cadbury and did withdraw their custom after he had established that Portuguese plantation owners were using slaves. And yes, the plantation owners of São Tomé did continue with their questionable labour practices right up to 1974, when the Carnation Revolution caused Portugal to withdraw from its African territories. Tavares builds the tension between the idealist Valença and the powerful plantation owners; he also shows how strong was the colour bar in Portuguese Africa; and his description of São Tomé is wonderful. For anyone with any interest in Portugal's former African territories, this book adds knowledge and atmosphere and is a delight to read. For just how rich the plantation owners became from their use of slave labour, you might examine the Pestana Palace Hotel in Lisbon, which was built between 1904 - 1915 for the Marquês de Vila Flôr, the owner of the Vila Flôr plantation in São Tomé. The Marquês is also mentioned in the novel. On page one of this book there is a quite inexplicable remark about the Suez Canal (finished in 1869). Should this remark refer to the Panama Canal (which at that time was being bought by the Americans)? Any views, anyone?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely read 6 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As I've lately become fascinated with colonial Portugal in general and the island of Sao Tomé and Principe during that time period in particular, this book gives a fabulous insight into that way of life -- on both sides of the colonial fence, as it were. It's a terrific novel, great characters, touched with lots of actual facts and very romantic. Highly recommend it!
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