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
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Sugar Money Reviews

  • Alice Lippart

    Well written, engrossing and nearly impossible to put down.

  • 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 Falk

    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.

  • Karen

    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review.

    From the blurb, "Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission".

    The language was absolutely unique to this story, using pieces and fragments of Creole (Kréyòl), a sprinkle of French and a dose of clipped English (no past tense, no plurals).

    Good book.

    4☆

  • Tia

    Not to be missed. I Recommend to anyone who enjoys history and learning about slavery in different lands. It’s a punch in the gut page turner. Ms. Harris, unlike many others who write about the slave trade, didn't leave out the gore and deplorable treatment of the slaves. She showed how manipulations of the greedy Friars led others to their deaths. Harris writes where you can understand and sympathize with the slaves, like when they decide not to escape to Martinique. It is a well written story

    Not to be missed. I Recommend to anyone who enjoys history and learning about slavery in different lands. It’s a punch in the gut page turner. Ms. Harris, unlike many others who write about the slave trade, didn't leave out the gore and deplorable treatment of the slaves. She showed how manipulations of the greedy Friars led others to their deaths. Harris writes where you can understand and sympathize with the slaves, like when they decide not to escape to Martinique. It is a well written story that I won't soon forget. You will be on pins and needles rooting for Emile, Lucien and Celeste. Emile! Emile! I find myself calling him as well.

    Over seer Belle

    Friar Cleophas

    Mr White

    Lucien

    Emile

    Celeste

    Martinique

    Grenada

  • Didi

    Sugar Money is a very well written historical fiction that is based on a real even to that took place in Grenada 1765. Not knowing that much about the Caribbean I decided to pick this one up. I'm glad I did despite some of the torturous passages I read to read about the brutality the English put the slaves through. Chilling and horrific! This book is well worth the read and informed me on a bit of this period, 18th century Caribbean and slavery there. The story is full of suspense for the reader

    Sugar Money is a very well written historical fiction that is based on a real even to that took place in Grenada 1765. Not knowing that much about the Caribbean I decided to pick this one up. I'm glad I did despite some of the torturous passages I read to read about the brutality the English put the slaves through. Chilling and horrific! This book is well worth the read and informed me on a bit of this period, 18th century Caribbean and slavery there. The story is full of suspense for the reader. You'll want to continue to find out if Emile and Lucien manage to pull off this feat with success. Very happy that my 2017 ended on a really good book. I definitely recommend to people who like reading well-written historical fiction novels.

  • Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    At first I was reluctant to request

    because I'm a weakling at handling slavery stories sometimes. I turn into a puddle of sobs. But, despite being quite detailed about the hardships of slave life in 1765, it was a very engaging read. It doesn't have a very happy ending, as you might surmise, but it tells a story worth hearing, told very soberly and matter-of-factly. You can also read this review

    At first I was reluctant to request

    because I'm a weakling at handling slavery stories sometimes. I turn into a puddle of sobs. But, despite being quite detailed about the hardships of slave life in 1765, it was a very engaging read. It doesn't have a very happy ending, as you might surmise, but it tells a story worth hearing, told very soberly and matter-of-factly. You can also read this review

    Pain, suffering and despair are usually the things that destroy me in slavery stories - but

    In the end, it makes sense that even though life is pretty damn horrifying, those people would not be alive if they didn't learn to live with it - the human spirit doesn't fare well, unless it adjusts. A person can't keep reacting to horror dramatically. I felt like it made the story extra believable - it being told like that. The story is also told through Lucien's point of view, and he is a young teen when the events take place. I feel like telling it that way really works well for a male character's point of view as well.

    I was listening to this book on text to speech, and actually, as I was going, I had to pretty much max out the speed - so I could just find out what happens.

    At times, it was even a little bit much. But definitely in an enjoyable way - I could just not put it down.

    Despite not containing a lot of drama, like I said earlier, there's still emotion.

    The stories of why the slaves are where they are. Of why the main characters have these memories, these feelings. Of who they grew up with, who they fell in love with, and... lost. All of these paint a really engrossing image of the community and life for these people. It will also tug at your heartstrings for sure.

    It's definitely still fiction - but it's based on true events and it doesn't feel like the story strays too far from them.

    The sober tone that I've mentioned before really does give it a feel of reading a history book, but not a dry one at all. It's also an important topic to talk about, so I feel like the author has picked an amazing setting and historical event to write this based on. In the end, the point it makes is that even if a slave trusts their owner, it's just an owner - and they will sell them out.

    Well, obviously - it's a slavery book. Expect rape, murder, torture, bodily harm and all that. I don't feel like I need to go in more detail. It's not told dramatically, but it's told in detail

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  • Melanie

    I mainly picked this book up because it is longlisted for the Walter Scott Award in 2018. I am fairly certain, I would have not picked it up otherwise as the other two books by Jane Harris were just ok for me. I am so glad, that I did pick it up though because this certainly had the wow factor for me. The story focuses on two slaves who have been charged by their owner to retrieve some slaves from a neighboring island which is now under British rule. It is a fool's errand and dangerous, but bein

    I mainly picked this book up because it is longlisted for the Walter Scott Award in 2018. I am fairly certain, I would have not picked it up otherwise as the other two books by Jane Harris were just ok for me. I am so glad, that I did pick it up though because this certainly had the wow factor for me. The story focuses on two slaves who have been charged by their owner to retrieve some slaves from a neighboring island which is now under British rule. It is a fool's errand and dangerous, but being slaves they have no way of saying no or getting out of it. The story is told in a way that breaks your heart but does not allow you to wallow in any melodrama, there is no sugar sweetness here, no tear jerking, no cry buttons that are being pressed. And I guess that's why some people found the characters to be remote, we are so used to that type of horrific historical fiction to trigger a "weep" response. This is not a tear jerker, this is a book that shows you what the reality of those lives could have been like. Horrific, brutal, de-humanising. Not an easy read, well worth being longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize.

  • Helene Jeppesen

    3.5/5 stars.

    When I started reading this book, I thought there was a spelling error. Then I found another one on the same page, and when I found a third one I realized that this was done on purpose. In other words, I quickly realized that the personal tone of voice and the language plays a huge role in “Sugar Money”, and I loved it.

    This book is about two brothers living in Martinique in the 1700s. Emile is 28 years old, and Lucien is only 14 which makes him the youngest and therefore the one to

    3.5/5 stars.

    When I started reading this book, I thought there was a spelling error. Then I found another one on the same page, and when I found a third one I realized that this was done on purpose. In other words, I quickly realized that the personal tone of voice and the language plays a huge role in “Sugar Money”, and I loved it.

    This book is about two brothers living in Martinique in the 1700s. Emile is 28 years old, and Lucien is only 14 which makes him the youngest and therefore the one to look up very much to his big brother. When the brothers are sent on a mission to Grenada, a neighbouring Island, Lucien views this as a grand adventure that will finally allow for him to outlive his dreams and follow in the footsteps of his pirate idols. However, Emile is very apprehensive because he knows the absolute dangers of this mission, however much he tries to hide that from his little brother.

    This book is based on facts, but intertwined with these we get a story about brotherhood and growing up under dire circumstances. I loved a lot about the story, but there were also some things about it that decreased my reading pleasure a tiny little bit. This is mostly due to personal preferences as I’m very hard to please when it comes to adventure stories in general. Nevertheless, this one sat very well with me however devastating it was, and it’s one that’s definitely gotten me intrigued in reading more by Jane Harris.

  • Gumble's Yard

    Now I have to start this review with an embarrassing confession – I had seen the title of this book mentioned in several end of year reviews and tipped for the Women’s Prize. Subconsciously though I had read the author as

    – most famously author of

    (a novel made into a film about a single mother opening a chocolaterie in Rural France – a broad sweet food-based theme she picked up in later books) and I assumed from the title that this novel would follow in a similar theme –

    Now I have to start this review with an embarrassing confession – I had seen the title of this book mentioned in several end of year reviews and tipped for the Women’s Prize. Subconsciously though I had read the author as

    – most famously author of

    (a novel made into a film about a single mother opening a chocolaterie in Rural France – a broad sweet food-based theme she picked up in later books) and I assumed from the title that this novel would follow in a similar theme – perhaps around a small shop selling sweets.

    In fact the book is by Jane Harris – whose debut novel

    was shortlisted for the Orange Prize – and has been described as a rollicking and funny but dark Victorian pastiche. Her second novel

    was also longlisted for the Orange Prize. And while this, Harris’s third novel, is around the making of money from the sale of sugar, it is instead based on the slave-fuelled sugar trade of the West Indies in the 18th Century.

    The story draws on true events in 1765 on the Islands of (French-owned) Martinique and (occupied by the English in 1763) Grenada, shortly after a truce is signed between the two nations.

    Two mulatto brothers Emile and the much younger Lucien are asked by a mendicant Friar to travel to a hospital and sugar plantation in Grenada, once owned by the French Friars but now overseen by the English. Emile and Lucien are the bastard sons, via rape, of the previous cruel French overseer of the hospital and plantation in Grenada. Their task is to try and persuade some previously French-owned slaves there to flee from their tyrannical English and Scottish masters (who also are actively suppressing their French influenced speech and culture) and return with them to Martinique – although only as slaves there.

    The brothers have a Power of Attorney setting out the French claim to the slaves as being in their possession – but its clear that the English are very unlikely to recognise its validity and so effectively the brothers are asked to smuggle the slaves away across the Island.

    The book is recounted (we later learn as a written account many years later) by Lucien – in a distinctive colloquial style, scattered with Creole (we later learn translated from the original which was written in a mix of English, French and Creole).

    Lucien is simultaneously in awe of his older brother, particularly after discovering his role in some battles on Martinique, and resentful of his brother’s protective attitude towards him which often shades into condescension. The two’s relationship is complicated by them seeing in each other traces of their “vile devil of a father”, although for me one of the most memorable images of the novel is when Lucien recounts that after the two fight

    Emile grab me by the shoulders and said through his teeth: Remember our mother. Her blood flows in our veins too, just as much as his. We never have to be like him, not ever.

    So that we realise that the brothers are ashamed of the white part of their heritage.

    One of Emile’s motivations for returning to Martinique (albeit his slave status gives him little choice) is to meet again his love Celeste (who he was parted from years earlier when taken to Martinique) only to find she is pregnant, seemingly via the English doctor who runs the hospital. Celeste played an important role in bringing up Lucien who loves her deeply, and the complex relationships between the three is the key dynamic of the novel.

    The book is, like Harris’s first novel, told effectively as a rollicking adventure tale – with very detailed accounts of the brothers’ adventures on the Island, which I often found myself skipping.

    Particularly early on, the adventurous nature of the brother’s quest can seem to obscure the reality of their status as slaves; although, particularly when the brothers reach the sugar plantation in Grenada, the appalling cruelty of the English (and Scottish) treatment of the slaves breaks through in occasional horrific details of some of the punishments meted out to errant slaves.

    Overall this book was a little too much of an adventure book for my tastes – however there is much to admire in the conception of the novel and in particular Harris’s braveness in telling the tale, fully conscious that she could be accused of cultural appropriation. Certainly for a British audience, a slavery tale which is set in the Caribbean; and one in which the English (and Scottish – an deliberate decision on Harris’s part was to identify the role of the Scottish in slavery in the sugar plantations) are seen by the slaves as the worst of all possible masters; makes an arresting contrast to the number of recent slavery-based novels appearing on literary prizes which are typically set in the Southern states of America.

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