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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 13 June 2012
This is a great book. There are so many things in here to make you stop and think, not always comfortably. For example, Andrea is fortunate to have such an interesting and researchable family history to recount. And yet how can you say that it is good fortune to have a family history emeshed in slavery, traceable in part only because of efficient records of slave ownership? But there are also things in this book that make you want to just keep turning the page in the unfolding family drama down the generations. Although that can also be uncomfortable. You almost want the first Ashby's to survive and flourish against the odds in their new world. Or at least I did, aware that this is the start of the author's known family tree. And yet how can anyone say that they wanted these pioneer families to flourish, when it was only possible thanks to slavery?

A combination of detailled research and an eloquent retelling of some dreadful stories and realities bring another time and place vividly to life. However the fact that the story is also very personal adds a moving and unusual dimension, as Andrea reflects on her ancestors and their differing lives in an open and honest way. I kept being drawn back to these people, caring about their fate. Black, white and clearly all shades in between. Flawed and heroic, sometimes both. But all of them Andrea's flesh and blood, who have lived the consequences of slavery and empire and still do to this day.

In her preface Andrea talks beautifully about her debt of honour to all her ancestors, telling their story and bringing them to life. In the introduction she talks of how angry and upset she felt at finding an ancestor in a register of slaves, but also about how he can now be honoured. Andrea has done her family proud. She may consider that she had a debt to pay, if so it is certainly one that she has repaid handsomely with this book. And the rest of us are very lucky that such a gifted writer has chosen to share her story with us.

K. J. Talbot
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on 9 March 2017
As an Ashby of Bajan decent I found this book particularly captivating. But as a lover of beautiful storytelling, I found this book hard to put down. It's both a story of history and a lesson in the same. I cannot thank the author enough for going to the trouble of putting this together.
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on 4 April 2017
400 years of history researched and written by an ancestor of an original English settlor in Barbados in the 1600's. An amazing book.
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on 27 April 2017
thank you
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on 3 January 2014
Through the sotory of a slave, a piece of history of menkind. Nice story, good writing, rigorous storical bases, I definitly suggest reading
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on 8 March 2014
A superb personal story of Barbados ... on slavery, sugar and broader issues of the insidious effects of globalisation and the latent prejudices that still taint western society

This was literally a rushed purchase, just before heading for a snatched winter break in Barbados - I wanted something that would provide an insight into the islands history.

Wow !! Little anticipated, but much appreciated, I feel genuinely moved by the experience of this great book.

As a middle-aged white Caucasian, with roots in the English countryside, as far back as we have traced, Andreas writing challenged some of my deep-seated imagery of the New World, how it developed and how many of the institutions, great buildings, estates and wealthy families of the UK can be traced back to their connections with this awful industry. The book resonates through the centuries and lays at our feet the challenges today of global companies [ think: factories in Bangladesh] and our own attitudes to the contribution of non-whites to the growth of our society.

But it is also a good read, if sometimes a little laboured at the beginning, but as a non-bookish person I felt compelled to stick with it. Andreas use of the richness of English language is delightful - so best to read on a kindle, so you can look up those uncommon words

Sugar in the Blood is a work of great insight, intelligence and feeling. Andreas family story is fascinating and has threads across into the USA and back to the Old Country. Her observations of the pervasive effects of one of the world's first global industries, are brought alive with a connectedness that comes from literally having 'skin in the game'.
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on 19 March 2017
My book of the year
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on 28 October 2013
Being a twelfth generation Barbadian like Andrea Stuart, who went to primary school with a member of the Ashby family in the 1950s, I found this book absolutely compelling. The first record that I have been able to locate shows that my ancestor was the owner of a plantation in St. George in 1659, which suggests that he arrived in Barbados shortly after Andrea's ancestor George Ashby. In his will he is described as a gentleman and its wording suggests that he was a royalist, so it seems likely that he was a man of some substance who sought refuge in Barbados during the English Civil War. I know exactly where the land is that he farmed, where his windmill stood and how many slaves his heirs inherited; however, I have never been able to visualize the world in which he lived. Andrea Stuart has done a great job of drawing on various sources to bring the Barbados of that era alive for all of us.
I must confess that I became a bit worried about the accuracy of her portrayal when she described the harvesting of sugar cane, making reference to the burning of the fields and the use of machetes. This has never been the practice in Barbados as there are no snakes or scorpions and a medieval-looking instrument called a cane-bill was used to cut cane manually, but later on I realized that she actually grew up in Jamaica, which explains this small mistake.
I should add that the book is very well written. Although the author has cited her sources in an annex, the text is not cluttered with footnotes like an academic treatise. I read a lot of history for pleasure, but on some occasions it becomes a task. I will definitely be buying her biography of that most famous of Caribbean women, Josephine.
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on 4 August 2013
As a descendant of the Ashby’s of Northamptonshire, Sugar in the Blood, made uncomfortable reading at times. My part of the family stayed in England and were farmers in Bugbrooke. They shared with their Barbados namesakes membership of the Society of Friends and some were imprisoned for their faith. Some no doubt thought of emigration, and one did go to Trinidad. So the problems of seeking exile are close to home. That those who faced persecution were themselves to become persecutors also seems to be a commonplace in the history of the world.
The story of life on a slave plantation also has resonance with me as I lived in Zimbabwe shortly after independence and knew many in the commercial farming areas. Life on a cotton or tobacco farm in the 1970s was not much different for the workers from life in the West Indies a century and a half earlier. They were given three days to build a hut when they started work; not paid but given ‘rations’; education for the children, where available, came from someone who themselves was barely grade 5. The only difference that independence made was that the farm workers began to be paid. Barely enough to cover what they had formerly been given and usually spent in the farm store where the farmers fixed the prices.
Sugar in the Blood then is much more than a story of one family in one place; but also about exploitation throughout the empire. Exploitation of land and exploitation of people. That one family achieved a sort of harmony from the conflicts that resulted and eventually perhaps acknowledged a common humanity is testament to the resilience of all people.
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on 21 December 2014
I've read many books, fictional and non fictional, about the experiences and lives of African slaves, the majority focussing on the emotional impact on the individual and their own relationships. (In fact, prior to reading Sugar in the Blood I read The Book of Night Women, by Marlon James - testimony to the success of Amazon's cunning algorithms). None managed to bring together the social, economic and historical context in quite the same way. Usefully, Stuart contrasts Barbados with other Caribbean Islands, most notably Haiti, providing yet more context and a deeper understanding of how internal but perhaps more importantly, external influences shaped the politics and economy of the individual islands.

Through her own ancestry, which is in itself of huge historical and social significance, Stuart brings us right up to date; post-war immigration, the NHS, diabetes, the music of the Caribbean, the Tate Gallery, all legacies of the violent and lucrative sugar trade in one way or another.

Sugar in the Blood is a highly readable yet detailed labour of love, which is probably deserving of a second read. My only criticism is my Kindle version didn't pick up on the references, which are throughout the book - unfortunately I only found them at the end.
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