Olive Collins second novel is divided into two sections with two narrators, one hundred years apart. The first part, set in the nineteenth century is about Art, who leaves Ireland as an indentured servant bound for Jamaica. He is just a young boy and he soon makes friends among the other servants and among the many slaves on the plantation. The differences between the two groups is made immediately apparent in the way that Art is treated, as he becomes a trusted gardener and indoor servant and later an overseer. His relationship with a young slave woman Flora leads to children but Art is painfully aware that the children are not his to keep and heartache awaits him as his children grow up. I don't want to spoil the book so suffice to say that there is a mystery, left unanswered as section one ends and we hear Yseult's tale. It is 1991 and Yseult is growing old and tired. Her daughter Rachel wants to modernise their beautiful estate, Lugdale in Kerry but Yseult wants life to continue as before, but life at the estate is interrupted as a skeleton is discovered when a storm topples a tree, on the edge of the estate. What is the secret that has been hidden? Yseult must search her own past for answers. This is a fantastic page turning historical tale, beautifully written and revealing the sad legacy of a cruel and inhumane trade and it's close connections to the Irish who were often slave traders and owners as well as intermarrying with the African population in Jamaica. Olive Collins has an eye for detail and a real flair for storytelling. Thanks to Poolbeg and the author for a review copy.
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