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Books Editorial

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Jane Harris, Faber & Faber

There was much intrigue at the heart of Jane Harris’ previous two novels - The Observations and Gillespie and I (both excellent) – which were set in the 19th century. For her third book she’s dipped further back in time to the Caribbean circa 1765, for a more straightforward, but nevertheless captivating, narrative set among a slave community. Our hero is Lucien, a slave barely out of his teens, who is tasked by his French master to sail from Martinique with his much older brother, Emile, to Grenada – where they once lived – to smuggle back tens of slaves who are now under the yoke of their English masters. It’s based on a true story but it reads, initially at least, like a Robert Louis Stevenson caper, rum swilling ship captain and all. This works because it reflects Lucien’s sense of adventure, and his delight in spending time with his beloved brother; but while Harris keeps their riveting story moving forward at quite a clip she never shies away from the grotesque horrors of slavery.