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Death Stalks Kettle Street
John Bowen

The awful trade in people.

Chains - Frances Mary Hendry

This was the first tree book I've read for several years, mainly because it was suggested that I might sleep better. It was an interesting experience, after being a Kindle reader for so long, although I'm not sure my sleep was improved.

 

This novel has a really appealing cover and It's been a while since I read a book on slavery, but the book wasn't particularly well written and on several occasions I gave up on paragraphs that I simply could not untangle. Sadly this has affected my rating, because the idea of the book, to illustrate a number of ways in which slavery operated at the turn of the nineteenth century, should have worked well.

 

Being a Young Adult book, the consensus was on five teenagers.

Bert had stowed away on a slaving ship and was now apprenticed to become an able seaman by the age of 16.

Dand had got very drunk during a visit to his local market and become press-ganged into crew for another slaving ship; he is to be sold as a slave when they arrive in Jamaica.

Juliet's father owned a number of trading vessels and one of his products was slaves; she swapped with her cowardly brother to take his place on one of her father's ships, as a boy.

Hassan's father was also a slave trader, although he didn't own the ships, but things didn't go as planned when he travelled with his father to learn the trade. 

Ghobi's African family was largely slaughtered, as traders rampaged through the villages, stealing survivors for the slave trade. She is only twelve but her ability to stay aloof and calm the others with admonitions to 'smile and await your chance for revenge', results in her becoming a bit of a leader (medicine woman) amongst the villagers.

 

Eventually the five teenagers meet up on The Kestrel, Juliet's father's ship. They learn from each other, that slaves are humans with feelings and that slavery is an abominable trade.

 

Whilst this is an important lesson and the book has a high moral value, it is a pretty graphic read for youngsters, with slaves packed densely in the ships' holds and bloated bodies suffering from cholera, to give just two examples. Maybe not suited for those of sensitive disposition.