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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful
This novel by Philippa Gregory takes a look at the slave trade in the period leading up to the abolition.
It tells the story of Mahuru, a high priest taken as a slave, and Francis Scott, the wife of the merchant who owns the slave ship that took him.
In an effort to increase his wealth, Francis's husband wishes to train the slaves as servants to be sold to...
Published on 21 Nov 2007 by Nadia

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars for what it is, it's good
I'm not going to say I expected or hoped for a sensible novel on slavery, because I've read enough Philippa Gregory novels to know that's not her thing. Gregory prefers forbidden passions and crushing sorrow and harsh times. This, although no less absorbing than any other of her novels, does of course focus on a love affair (or at least, mainly the leading up to it)...
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Lauren H


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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful, 21 Nov 2007
By 
Nadia "Fleet UK" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
This novel by Philippa Gregory takes a look at the slave trade in the period leading up to the abolition.
It tells the story of Mahuru, a high priest taken as a slave, and Francis Scott, the wife of the merchant who owns the slave ship that took him.
In an effort to increase his wealth, Francis's husband wishes to train the slaves as servants to be sold to wealthy families, and to Francis falls the task of teaching them English customs.
The characterisation in this novel is very superior. Mahuru is a kind, intelligent man who quickly masters the English language, but never loses sight of his heritage. But perhaps the most developed character is Francis, as she struggles between the ways of the English aristocrat that have been drilled in to her since childhood, and her growing empathy with those she must teach. Philippa Gregory handles this with skill, and those who have criticised Francis for wanting the best of both worlds, forget that far from being a woman ahead of her time, Philippa Gregory has taken the more original step of creating a woman very much of her time.
Her descriptions of the brutality the slaves had to endure are poignant and all the more disturbing for their accuracy. It is right that the story does not gloss over the behaviour of our ancestors, as a less dedicated writer of historical fiction might be tempted to do. This novel has the Philippa Gregory trade mark attention to detail and thorough painstaking research. I was quite moved to tears by the end.
A haunting novel well worth reading and rereading.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars for what it is, it's good, 12 Jan 2011
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
I'm not going to say I expected or hoped for a sensible novel on slavery, because I've read enough Philippa Gregory novels to know that's not her thing. Gregory prefers forbidden passions and crushing sorrow and harsh times. This, although no less absorbing than any other of her novels, does of course focus on a love affair (or at least, mainly the leading up to it) between a privileged but unhappy woman and an oppressed African slave. One has to suspend belief more than a little, but then what does one expect? I didn't mind too much.

It would have been brilliant if Gregory had taken this further. I wish she had done away with the sticky imagery and somersaulting emotions, and produced a raw piece of fiction. I believe it would have been better had Francis and Mehuru's love for one another been not the gooey sort of love that the historical fiction genre spews, but rather a more angry, uncertain, unconsummated love. Not falling into a bed scattered with petals (I tell you, it's true.)

But I won't slate Gregory, no I shan't. She was brave to take on a topic like this, and incorporate it into one of her fizzling romances. And she did well, I don't think there is any doubt, in painting Francis' husband, a slave-owner and profiteer of the 'respectable' trade of the title, not as a wicked man but as a foolish one, a product of his time, of the same misguided and shuttered politics many shared. As well as this, it was a grand idea to contrast Francis' power over Mehuru, with men's had power over women in the 18th century.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can always depend on a Gregory, 9 Mar 2007
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
Cracking, self-contained adventure that is informative and entertaining throughout. A rollercoaster ride towards doom, you might think, and although most of your worst fears are realised by the end of the book, Gregory gives Josiah Cole a way out with the suggested formation of a bank. Though most people know about the American slave trade, Britain's part in this disgraceful business is not always so well covered. Thank heavens for Wilberforce.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, but..., 20 Dec 2007
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
I'll echo the reviews by others, but I want to add a note of warning for anyone purchasing a copy - I have an copy, bought new, that sat unread for far too long on my bookshelves. The pages from 417 to 464 are missing and it seems that these include the crux of the tale. (Examining the book, this looks like a printers error rather than pages falling out as the book is in A1 condition.) A huge disappointment!

If you are picking up a second hand copy, avoid ISBN 0 00 647337 7 published in 1996.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, 15 Feb 2004
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
This is a book i have come back to again and again. The period of history it covers is fascinating and was relatively unknown to me and the empathy with the characters is enormous. It is beautifully and skillfully written.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, 6 July 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
I love Philippa Gregory's books, but I found myself worrying a little too much about the fate of the characters to really enjoy this novel. I felt sorry for the slaves that were kidnapped in Africa and brought to England and also for the disgusting way in which they were treated. However I also felt so sorry for Josiah, a small businessman-trader who owns a couple of small trading ships, who tries to better himself by marrying the niece of a titled gentleman. In order to be able to enjoy the privileges given to the bigger businessmen he joins their elite association and is eventually forced to turn to the slave trade to in the hope of increasing his profits. However, his wife pushes for greater riches and a bigger house and poor Josiah has to borrow more and more money against his small trading ships, even when he is not sure whether the return against them will be enough to cover his debts. Torn in two by his status-hungry wife and his business-headed sister, Josiah is led into a trap set for him by the rich tradesmen that he has come to trust, whereby he stands to lose everything he has striven to achieve. I had a knot in my stomach for most of the time that I was reading this book and I wanted to scream out a warning to Josiah, because I could foresee his potential downfall. The author has obviously well-researched the history of the slave trade and is able to make the atmosphere come alive. This book is very well written - so well written, in fact, that the fate of Josiah and his family became almost real! Engrossing!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Josiah Cole - the Cliff Barnes of 18th-century Bristol?, 23 Jan 2007
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This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
I just finished this book in two days - like a terrible accident, it's hard to tear your eyes away from the devastation, but you watch and watch, hoping to see someone come out of the wreckage intact.

I have to disagree with the reviewer who describes Josiah as the victim of his ambitious wife - it is his own ambition, his naivety and his rejection of his sister's business acumen that ultimately doom him. Frances's (understandable) insistence on a home away from the stinking docks is just the thin end of the wedge. I read the book so fast mainly to find out the hapless Josiah's fate, rather than that of the lovers (which was so clearly doomed from the start). I realise a novel needs to have subplots, but I'm not sure that a good balance was struck in this case.

That said, I strongly recommend this book as a moving account of the terrible Trade in human lives that mars Europe's history. Bristol is a beautiful city (thanks to Nature as much as Man), but I agree that its dark past needs bringing into the light.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 19 Dec 2011
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Kindle Edition)
This book started off a little slow,but it became so emotional as the story started unfolding, I was in tears.Very dramatic,well worth it !!!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating historical novel., 7 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
The BBC TV adaptation of this novel of a number of years ago really impressed me, so more recently I read the original book. The plot is highly compelling and immerses the reader in the world of the time. The love story is touching and tastefully portrayed. I very much enjoyed this novel, as with all other novels by Philippa Gregory that I have read.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very real, 29 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
As always, I find the quality and accuracy of Philippa Gregory's historical novels to be second-to-none and this one is no exception. However, I enjoyed it a little less than her other novels because I found myself to be anxious all the way through the story, worrying what was to become of Josiah, knowing that he was basically a good and decent man. I could feel that by marrying the niece of a titled man and thus trying to improve his standing in life, he would take far too many risks and stand to lose everything he had worked for. I didn't really feel pity for Mehuru, the slave, as he seemed to be strong-willed enough to take care of himself, however, I felt deeply for the other slaves that were kidnapped and taken from a life that they knew and loved, only to be thrown into a cold and uncaring environment in Bristol, England. Despite my anxiety for the family, I found that (as is always the case with Philippa Gregory's books) I could not put the book down! Superb.
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