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?