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Sugar Island Hardcover – 20 Jan 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (20 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071952184X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719521843
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,428,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'An absorbing novel inspired by the life of the famous English actress and writer Fanny Kemble, with a good helping of imagination thrown in. It's gripping, entertaining and entirely on the side of the angels' (The Times)

'Completely absorbing . . . A surprise delight that will please romantics with a conscience hugely' (City AM)

'This thought-provoking book is based on a true story . . . well-written and moving, though at times it is uncomfortable reading. This is partly due to the descriptions that make us feel as if we are actually witnessing the events and experiencing the places. The author . . . is to be congratulated on her excellent research and her ability to translate it into such a gripping and informative novel' (Yorkshire Gazette)

'Beautifully written, the contrasts between the luxurious life of the rich and the horrific, cruel lives of their slaves are vividly recorded and stay in the memory for a long time' (Press Association)

'A well-researched and sensitive story evoking a "twisted version of paradise". O'Connell writes with passion' (Oxford Times)

'A diverting read' (Irish Examiner)

'One of the ten books to look forward to in 2011' (Irish Post)

Book Description

A riveting story of compassion and justice set in the tumultous years of the American Civil War

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sugar Island tells the story of Emily, a young English actress who, while working in America, falls in love with and marries an American lawyer. Not long after their wedding he is called back to run his family's sugar plantation on St Simon's Island off the coast of Georgia. Emily had no idea that he was anything other than a lawyer and so it is a huge shock to end up living as the wife of a slave owner. She keeps a diary of her life there, detailing the horrific and cruel practices that were common on plantations. As the novel is based on real diaries written at the time - late 1850s - the detail is as harrowing as it is authentic. The beauty of the island provides a stark contrast to the horrors being perpetuated on the plantation. The colours, textures, scents and sounds convey a real sense of place and combine to underline the terrible dichotomy of Emily's life there. Her life is a struggle to come to terms with the fact that the man she loved can be so brutal and she finds that her attempts to improve the slaves' lot actually make it worse. She can't leave the island as she has too much to lose, yet how can she stay and live a life of relative luxury in the midst of such deprivation. This novel is beautifully written and, though harrowing to read, it is ultimately rewarding for its depiction of Emily's struggle and her determination to stay true to her principles.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, its is written in a slightly whimsical way in parts, true to the time period its set in.
Touchng on terrible treatment of slaves, but not too deeply.
It's not meant to be a documentory or a heavy drama but a lighter read.
I still found it iteresting and would recommend it.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Feb. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Inspired by the life of 19th-century actress and writer Fanny Kemble, 'Sugar Island' tells the story of inspirational if reluctant actress Emily Harris, who agrees to go on a tour to the United States with her father's acting troupe, where she meets liberal writer Ely Crawford and his novelist sister Sarah, and charming lawyer Charles Earl Brook. When Emily's father is killed in a carriage accident, Emily finds herself, vulnerable and alone, committing to marrying Charles. Unfortunately, she's not bothered to really find out much about Charles's life, and is horrified to discover that the bulk of his income comes from a Georgia sugar and cotton plantation, manned by slaves - not only this, but Charles must give up life in Boston to run this plantation. In the heat and dust of the plantation, Emily gives birth to a daughter, and struggles to help the slaves, campaigning in her quiet way for abolition, and trying to provide them with education and practical comforts. But in so doing, she severely alienates her husband, a man who believes in 'the old ways'. As the American Civil War looms, and Charles grows more tyrannical, Emily realizes that she is in terrible danger.

I felt this book was a great idea that didn't quite come off. There were some great bits - descriptions of life on the plantation, Emily's friendship with young slave Frank, who she teaches to read, the contrast between Ely's passionate campaigning for abolition and Charles's horrific refusal to see his workers as fully human. There were some fine descriptions both of the theatre world and of the landscape of Georgia, and O'Connell gave a good sense of the horror of approaching war.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a book group choice otherwise I would never have purchased a hardback with such a whimsical cover. However, as this book has received many plaudits, and the author is an academic, I entered into the spirit of the "based on a true story" vibe surrounding the novel. I have had to speed read it as the nauseating detail of a country which exists only in the author's imagination, the jagged movement of time (it was a week later....), the ludicrous storyline and the one dimensional characters have left me cold. The condescending use of a supposed vernacular for the "niggers" set my teeth on edge as did the whole Charles bad/Emily good issue. The experience was akin to reading an over-long essay by one of my senior pupils who had been sitting with a thesaurus in order to use a wider vocabulary than she possessed - I was left itching for the blue editor's pencil.
My advice would be to save your money and wait till there is a paperback edition of this thinly disguised Mills and Boon - better still - use the library copy - better yet - don't waste precious hours of your life reading it at all.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sugar Island is Sandija O'Connell's second book which follows from her first historical version of the sugar trade. Unfortuntely I found this book to be very immature in both content and characterisation in its depiction of plantation life and the lives of the wealthy owners. The story line is extremely predictable....very disappointing read.
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