Sugar Money

Sugar Money

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission. They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier...

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Title:Sugar Money
Author:Jane Harris
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Edition Language:English

Sugar Money Reviews

  • Allison M

    5 stars for this novel about slavery in Grenada and Martinique.

    I don't think I can convey how good this novel is. Jane Harris is the writer of The Observations and Gillespie & I, both of which are memorable and wonderful, so I had very high expectations for Sugar Money - and my expectations have been surpassed, by a country mile.

    It is 1765. Our narrator is Lucien, who may be thirteen or only ten years old but hopes to pass for sixteen. He is a slave, living on Martinique with his French mast

    5 stars for this novel about slavery in Grenada and Martinique.

    I don't think I can convey how good this novel is. Jane Harris is the writer of The Observations and Gillespie & I, both of which are memorable and wonderful, so I had very high expectations for Sugar Money - and my expectations have been surpassed, by a country mile.

    It is 1765. Our narrator is Lucien, who may be thirteen or only ten years old but hopes to pass for sixteen. He is a slave, living on Martinique with his French masters after they are forced to leave Grenada by British forces. Lucien's voice is incredible: I read and re-read passages to drink in his words; usually I devour good books in greedy gulps but this novel I needed to savour. Lucien talks a beguiling mix of French, English and Creole, in a juxtaposition of idioms with some stiffly formal language into which he breathes life. As well as this, Lucien's narration comprises a mixture of the jealousies, pride and imagined slights of a child or adolescent alongside more adult concerns and thoughts. Lucien's is a forthright, hotheaded and utterly authentic narrative voice (and he is utterly loveable too).

    Sugar Money recounts Lucien and his older brother Emile's near-impossible mission to bring back slaves left behind on Grenada, some forty people who are now enslaved by the British. Lucien and the other slaves are owned by les Freres de la Charite who want slaves to replace those who are sickening and dying, in order to tend the sugar plantation and start a distillery. Unwilling to risk their own lives, they send the brothers. And so begins what Lucien hopes will be an adventure that allows him to spend time with the brother he idolises. The brothers' relationship is exquisitely drawn, with Emile's inarticulate, paternal worry and love for Lucien contrasting with Lucien's need for admiration and love from Emile. Much of the beauty in the book comes from the relationships between the brothers, and between the slaves as a family they construct for themselves under 'grandparents' Angelique and Chevallier.

    The book also looks unflinchingly at ugly inhumanity. There is an examination of the treatment of slaves, involving immense physical punishments and cruel tortures driving some slaves to mental breakdown. The abuse and rape of female slaves is exposed as commonplace, with resulting paler-skinned 'mulatto' children. I was particularly moved by the story of Miss Praxede, who was made housekeeper and mistress of Dr Maillard until he replaced her with Zabette, a teenage girl. Praxede, aged 'near fifty', was sold on to one of 'those new Scotchmen - Mister Mac-Something', and when she ran away from her new owner was killed by being shot in the back. This is one of many atrocities. The French slavers treat their slaves very badly but time and again we are told and shown that 'the Goddams (the English)' are even more cruel. And in fact many of these 'English' in Sugar Money are Scots: there are Scottish plantation owners, overseers and soldiers in the book.

    Sugar Money is based on a true story. It is a story that is saddening and sickening but it is told with great beauty, with an outstanding narrative voice, and it is an important story.

    Even the cover of Sugar Money excels, with its eye-catching, gorgeous design. Buy this book!

    I received this book free from Faber & Faber.

  • Abby Slater- Fairbrother

    “Cane is sugar, sugar is money” Emile

    This novel is almost like three separate novels in one! It is a sensational story of a brave adventure. Yet there are obviously added dark elements, due to the slavery theme. It is also a story of the bonds of brotherhood and love. It really will pull at your heart strings and you will root for brothers Lucien and Emile, with love and hope on every page!

    Firstly, to start my review, I should say this is a beautiful book cover. The maps on the inside of the c

    “Cane is sugar, sugar is money” Emile

    This novel is almost like three separate novels in one! It is a sensational story of a brave adventure. Yet there are obviously added dark elements, due to the slavery theme. It is also a story of the bonds of brotherhood and love. It really will pull at your heart strings and you will root for brothers Lucien and Emile, with love and hope on every page!

    Firstly, to start my review, I should say this is a beautiful book cover. The maps on the inside of the cover, give it the piracy and adventure feel. I am really glad I own a physical copy!

    I should also mention that this novel is based around a true story.

    The novel opens in St Pierre, Martinique, Western Antilles. In December 1765, the location and era is fully explored throughout the novel. The novel is told from the narrative of slave Lucien. He is summoned to the morgue by his master Father Cleophas. His master is content with hacking at the innards, of a dead field hands corpse. His older brother Emile is present and they are both unsure as to why. Lucien being the younger brother at just approximately 15 years old and Emile being approximately 30 years old. Their story of their ancestry and brotherhood, makes for quite the dark tale.

    Father Clophas gives them a long winded explanation of how he wants them to return to Grenada and bring back 42 slaves. He informs them how badly the English treat the slaves and that they are, his rightful property. They will be joined by a Spanish skipper named Captain Bianco, who is a deaf mute. The master is clever in how he lures the men into the mission. As he suggests that Emile will be reunited with lost love Celeste and that they may grow into old age together upon returning. There is some squabbling amongst the brothers and we learn Emile doesn’t wish for Lucien to sail. Father Cleophas is adamant that they must work together as Emile is more cunning, but Lucien speaks the necessary English for the journey.

    Never the less they sail on the morrow…………

    “Listen, Lucien. This is no adventure, nor a child game. Sometimes, I wonder if you still have the sense you came born with” Emile

    Throughout the sailing, between Lucien’s thoughts and the brother’s conversation. We learn of life with the Fathers and monks. We also learn the dark secret of their parentage, which is shocking. Lucien is wary of the risk they will take on their vessel ‘The Daisy’. Emile formalises the plan, they must speak to the slaves at night, under the cover of darkness. He is well aware of what will become of them, if they fail this mission. Whilst Lucien dreams of killing the skipper and sailing to Africa. Neither man is quite prepared for what they will experience on this journey.

    “No real harm could come to us while we were together” Lucien

    “I knew that nobody could break the bond of blood – good and bad- between us” Lucien

    The memories and conversations between the men about Celeste, are fascinating. We learn she means quite a lot to both men. Having raised Lucien and being Emile’s sole love interest. I could not what to find out what had become of her in the seven years apart. The journey, is insightful into the character development and I really liked both Lucien and Emile immensely.

    When they arrive at the island, they are reunited with some close friends and family. However, they also learn the fate of some and it does not make for easy reading.

    They learn of the punishments inflicted upon the slave. They are methodical, barbaric and designed to break the will of the slave. The pass a man naked, bones visible he is so starved. The man has a vacant expression, he is shackled with his ear nailed to the hut and has an ointment on to attract flies to bite him. You could imagine the sheer despair of the mind, at being forced to endure such a torturous punishment.

    This novel by no means, down plays slavery. The degradation, brutality and dehumanisation is fully explored. Exactly in my opinion, as it should be. Any novel that is written about slavery has a duty for it to be as an accurate portrayal as possible. I would say I found this similar in one sense to the violence portrayed in The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James. Another author, not afraid to depict slavery honestly. There is a part where you will learn the story of Marital Medicine. It is possibly one of the darkest things I have ever read. I was completely taken aback, with the levels of depravity slavery had.

    The men are reunited with friends including Angelique, Leotine, Therese, Lejeune and finally Celeste. But when their eyes meet Celeste they are left shocked to their core………

    They are warned of a dangerous drunken overseer named Addison Bell. A man so insanely violent, he is feared by all…..

    “English been working us to death” – Angelquie

    “He could…. It could get us all killed” – Celeste

    The brothers get world out amongst the slave and begin to build a plan of the escape. This is no easy adventure and capture could be fatal. The novel continues at fast pace and you are left on the edge of your seat. I was genuinely trying to read as fast as I could. So that I could learn what will become of all the slaves including Lucien and Emile. It builds and builds, to an exceptionally emotional ending. I was left reeling and tearful at the same time. There is a note from the editor and an afterword by the author, which serve to add more depth to the characters, long after the novel is finished!

    A fantastic historical adventure story, that details the colonial history and pulls at the heart and soul. 5*

    “What I saw can never be unseen, never forgotten. All my life, over and over again, that same scene repeating in my mind” – Lucien

    *A Q&A with the author with the author is also available on my blog here:

  • Anne

    I always say that I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but when I think back, some of my all-time favourite books are, in fact, historical fiction. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Jane Harris's first novel The Observations sit there on my 'much-loved books' shelf.

    It's almost ten years since I read The Observations but the lead character of that story; Bessy Buckley remains one of my favourite characters ever. This author has such a skilled and thoughtful way of creating voic

    I always say that I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but when I think back, some of my all-time favourite books are, in fact, historical fiction. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Jane Harris's first novel The Observations sit there on my 'much-loved books' shelf.

    It's almost ten years since I read The Observations but the lead character of that story; Bessy Buckley remains one of my favourite characters ever. This author has such a skilled and thoughtful way of creating voices for her intriguing characters, and she's done it again in Sugar Money. Lucien and his older brother Emile are wonderfully drawn; characters that the reader cannot help but support, and love and their story is beautifully written.

    Beginning in 1765, on Martinque; Lucien and Emile are slaves. Owned by Father Cleophas and descended from the island of Grenada. Father Cleophas dictates that they must return to their homeland and bring back 42 other slaves. He says that they belong to him.

    For Lucien, this is an adventure. For Emile, this is a test. Yet they cannot refuse and must set sail with a plan. Their journey is the author's opportunity to tell their back story, and to reveal their characters and their relationship. This really is such a joy to read, even though I'll admit that at first I did struggle with the dialect, it doesn't take long for the reader to be swept along by these voices, and their intriguing and tragic story.

    Whilst there is no doubt that this is beautifully written, it is also devastatingly painful to read. The author does not spare the reader from the horrific detail of how the slaves are treated. Rape, torture, oppression; all there, all vividly portrayed, it is breathtaking.

    Sugar Money is a powerful, impressively told story. The sense of place is stunning and the reader is transported to a time of deep injustice, of hate and rage. Sugar Money delves deep into the past. The author's eye for detail is so precise, her characters are pure and the story is compelling.

  • Paul

    This is one of those saddening times in history, specifically, for the inhumane treatment of people (slaves) on the islands of Granada and Martinique. The author allowed me to eavesdrop into the story that contained snippets of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals) of the period. Nicely done. Unthinkable punishment was routinely doled out for even the most minor offenses. Horrifying beyond imagination. This strong character-driven storyli

    This is one of those saddening times in history, specifically, for the inhumane treatment of people (slaves) on the islands of Granada and Martinique. The author allowed me to eavesdrop into the story that contained snippets of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals) of the period. Nicely done. Unthinkable punishment was routinely doled out for even the most minor offenses. Horrifying beyond imagination. This strong character-driven storyline focused on two brothers. Slaves. The younger brother, Lucien, delivered the first person narrative of this well written, heartbreaking tale.

    Emile, age 28 and younger brother Lucien, age 12 were slaves in Martinique - French colony of the Western Antilles. They'd been ordered by a friar to voyage by sea to Granada - purpose, liberate many slaves held captive by the English and return them to Martinique. Their Homeland. Easier said than done. Demand for additional labor was desperately needed in Martinique for harvesting the island's major resource - sugar cane. Sugar was money.

    Upon reaching Granada, while in hiding, the brothers secretly made contact with many of the slaves destined to be returned home. Their plight was perilous. The time to escape had been carefully planned. It's execution had to go just right in order to succeed. In the end, it was a race against time. A race fraught with much danger. Life or death.

    Jane Harris spent considerable time and effort to her research into this rather short period in time. A few weeks in December, 1765. She went to Granada and followed the actual paths, traveled the historic roads and visited the landmark locations that gave rise to "Sugar Money". Pleasing to the senses, I was enraptured with the colloquialism delightfully found within the narrative. To name just two: "quick-sharp" - something done right away. "Kill-Devil" - their honored Island rum. My thanks for reconstructing these historic events and bringing it all to light.

    My gratitude sent to NetGalley and Arcade-Skyhorse Publishing for this ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

  • Rebecca Bowyer

    It's been a few days since I finished reading 

    , Jane Harris's third novel. But I've still got Lucien, the 12-year-old narrator, chatting away inside my head in his mash-up of English, French and Creole. I'm still worried about whether he'll be okay. The characters in this book really do get under your skin that much.

    Inspired by a true story,

    is Lucien's account of his mission, alongside his much older half-brother, Emile, to smuggle forty-two slaves from British-ruled Gr

    It's been a few days since I finished reading 

    , Jane Harris's third novel. But I've still got Lucien, the 12-year-old narrator, chatting away inside my head in his mash-up of English, French and Creole. I'm still worried about whether he'll be okay. The characters in this book really do get under your skin that much.

    Inspired by a true story,

    is Lucien's account of his mission, alongside his much older half-brother, Emile, to smuggle forty-two slaves from British-ruled Grenada to French-ruled Martinique 1765. Both brothers are slaves themselves and reluctantly embark on the extremely dangerous mission on the command of their French master, Father Cléophas.

    Lucien is a cocky, naive kid whose main dual concerns are to compete with his older brother and gain his approval. Emile simply wants to protect his younger brother, though as with younger brothers everywhere, this proves difficult.

    What follows is a strange mix of humour and horror. It becomes clear that as awful as the conditions are in French Martinique - beatings, hard labour and slavery passed on through the generations - Father Cléophas is confident the Grenada slaves will agree to attempt to escape with Emile and Lucien because their lives under British rule are even worse.

    The horror is muted somewhat through Lucien's eyes. Although he reports on it faithfully, he'll often be more interested in activities such as chatting up the nice young ladies wandering along the road ahead.

    .

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