Tag Archives: Whither Thou Goest

Anna Belfrage Talks about the History of SUGAR production, but of course!

Welcome the amazing Anna Belfrage today to Oh, for the Hook of a Book with a guest article in honor of the release of the seventh book in her Graham Saga Series! If you missed my review yesterday, check it out here. Take it away Anna, let’s eat cake while everyone else reads, eh??

Sugar and Spice and More than Just Things Nice
by Anna Belfrage, Author of The Graham Saga Series

Loading sugar and molasses for shipping to England Barbados 17th 18th century_jpg

Loading sugar and molasses for shipping to England Barbados 17th 18th century / negroartist.com

Say the West Indies, and most of us think of sun and sea, of palm trees and the soft swaying rhythm of calypso music. We don’t automatically think big business – well, beyond the fact that most of us know there are a couple of attractive tax havens in the Caribbean – but once upon a time the West Indies were a fundamental part of the global economy, part of that lucrative triangular trade in which slaves, sugar and rum were the major components.

The cultivation of sugar was a jealously guarded secret. The Spanish – and Portuguese – colonists wanted to retain some sort of monopoly on this cash crop (Pernambuco in Brazil was the world’s largest sugar producer), but the commercial forces were having none of it, and so sugarcane arrived to Barbados in the 1650’s, where it went on to become the dominant crop.

Interestingly enough, sugar was brought to Barbados by a group of Sephardic Jews, since several years established in Brazil but increasingly dissatisfied with their lot in life. As some of you may know, the Jews had been expulsed from England by Edward I in 1290, and since then the Jews had stayed well away from England and its dominions. But in 1655, a representative of the Jews approached Cromwell and asked that they be allowed to settle in London. Cromwell readily agreed – the man had a grudge the size of an elephant when it came to Catholics, but was substantially more tolerant towards the Jews. Plus, of course, he may have realised the benefits a strong Jewish community would bring to England as a trading nation. And in Barbados, the Sephardic Jews and their extensive knowledge of sugar cultivation were received with enthusiasm.

Sugar is a labour intensive crop. The Sephardic Jews brought with them the technological knowledge of how to crush and prepare the cane, but the actual work needed to be done by someone else. In Pernambuco, sugar had been grown by a multitude of small free-holders, resulting in low yields and too much administration. On Barbados, a slave-based approach was implemented. The economic results were fantastic. The resulting human suffering was inexcusable.

Not all slaves were black – at least not initially. Cromwell, that model of toleration vis-à-vis the Jews, had over 30 000 Irish men carried over the seas to work themselves to death under the Caribbean sun. Why? Because they were papists. Some years later, the officials of the restored monarch, Charles II, sent off boatloads of vociferous Scottish Presbyterians, condemned to servitude on the Barbadian plantations – a harsh and inevitable march towards death, very far from the country and people they loved.

By the time the Monmouth rebels were deposited on Barbados, the sugar production was fuelled by black slaves, brought over en masse from Africa. The pale, undernourished prisoners of the Crown who arrived in 1686 carried little economic value. The men were there to be punished for their rebellion, the Crown hoping to recoup on some of their costs by selling them off as slaves. None of the rebels were expected to live long – in fact, the idea was that they should expire, worked to their limits and beyond.

So who were these Monmouth rebels? Well, in 1685 the Duke of Monmouth decided to claim the English crown for himself, this based on the fact that he was the eldest son of the recently departed Charles II. Problem was, the Duke of Monmouth (James Scott in more informal circles) was illegitimate, even if he maintained that his parents had been secretly married. Hmm. Whatever the case, the flamboyant duke launched an invasion with the aim of overthrowing James II, the new king (and brother of Charles II). The duke hoped that his countrymen would rise in spontaneous rebellion when he landed, this due to James II being Catholic while the duke was a stout Protestant. Didn’t happen, and so the rebellion failed, with several thousands of young men being either executed or transported to the West Indies.

Charlie Graham, the Monmouth rebel depicted in Whither Thou Goest, was a young man with more passion than sense – which is how he ended up as a rebel to begin with. He had no understanding of the complex trading triangle he indirectly became a part of, all he could think about was surviving.

He had no idea that his endless days on the cane fieldsresulted in barrels packed with raw sugar, nor did he know that these barrels ended up on Rhode Island or in England where some of them were converted to rum. Good rum, far more sophisticated than the cane liquor produced by the various  stills on Barbados. That rum would travel the world, was traded for beads and for textiles that were carried to Africa by the slave traders. In Africa, the slavers loaded their holds with men and women who were born free but ended up enslaved – casualties of local wars and local greed.

By the time the slavers returned to the Caribbean with their human cargo, almost a year had passed since the sugar left the island. By then, many of the slaves brought over the previous year were dead, and the off-loaded cargo was easily disposed of, angry, bewildered and frightened people subjected to being sold like animals before they were dragged off to a life that quickly became a vicious circle of too much work, too little food.

No, Charlie knew nothing about the triangular trade, but he knew everything about that vicious circle. He stole, he bullied, hecrawled – all to ensure he survived. There were days when he didn’t want to, when he no longer knew why he struggled so hard to stay alive.

Occasionally, there were things that reminded Charlie of what it was like to be a man. Like when Mr Brown stepped from his house with a book in his hands, and Charlie recalled that he had once read for pleasure, or when the overseer sat smoking a pipe and drinking beer, and Charlie was transported back to evenings in a Dutch inn, with his friends and his hero, the now dead Duke of Monmouth. And then a sharp word would be thrown at him, and he would remember: he was a slave, a branded man, and his life was no longer his own nor would it ever be again. In such moments, he vehemently wished he could die, that the sky would open and fling a bolt of lightning to obliterate his sorry existence. But every morning he woke to yet another day of drudgery, and his heart was far too strong, his body far too young, to allow him to give up on living.

Fortunately for Charlie, he had an uncle named Matthew Graham, a man with his own bitter memories from his time as an indentured servant. Together with his wife, Alex, Matthew set off on an expedition to find Charlie – if nothing else to accord him a decent burial. That made Charlie an exception. Most of the Monmouth rebels had no one who came looking. Most of them would have died before the ten year sentence expired – except, of course, that James II was ousted and replaced by a Protestant king. The surviving rebels were pardoned, even if their new owners were reluctant to let them go. By 1691, more than half of the rebels had been freed, but with no money they remained stuck very far away from home. Maybe they consoled themselves with cane liquor.

These days, the best rum is mostly produced locally. These days, there is no triangular trade in which sugar becomes rum becomes slaves becomes sugar and so on. These days, Barbados is an island of golden sands and blue seas, a little slice of paradise. But if you leave the beaches and go exploring, if you take the time to visit the interior where the cane fields rustle like carpets of giant grass, chances are you may hear them, the whispered voices of the unfortunates who were yanked away from homes and loved ones, to end their days as slaves.

Anna Belgrage, Biography~

03_Anna BelfrageAnna Belfrage combines an exciting day job as the CEO of a multinational listed group with her writing endeavours. When she isn’t writing a novel, she is probably working on a post or catching up on her reading.

Other than work and writing, Anna finds time to bake and drink copious amounts of tea, preferably with a chocolaty nibble on the side. And yes, now and then she is known to visit a gym as a consequence…

For more info about Anna, visit her website or her Amazon page. You can also find her on her blog. Whither Thou Goest is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Whither Thou Goest, Synopsis~

01_Whither Thou GoestPublication Date: November 1, 2014
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip
Series: The Graham Saga

Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/whitherthougoestblogtour/

Hashtags: #WhitherThouGoestBlogTour #GrahamSaga #Historical #TimeSlip

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @anna_belfrage

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Absorbing and Visual: Seventh Book in Graham Saga Time Slip Series to the 17th Century

01_Whither Thou Goest

Review~

Let me start this review by saying that if you don’t follow this blog, this is the sixth review (not counting the guest articles and interviews) that I’ve written for Anna Belfrage about historical novels in her Graham Saga Series–the latest being the seventh book (I missed reviewing book one!) called Whither Thou Goest.

I have to say, I’ve grown quite fond of reviewing Anna’s books every six months or so. I feel very possessive of the characters in her books, with their quite strength, devotion, loyalty, love, and most of all humor. The humor and courage that Anna’s main time-slip character Alexandra Lind exudes over hundreds and hundreds of pages reminds me now of Anna (and she’ll either love or hate I said that–but she’s extremely strong and super funny herself). I can’t imagine not having Alex and Matthew in my life, so I pleasantly urge Anna to soon enough make them immortal. Hey, it happens, it could happen!!

Since I am not the type of reviewer that regurgitates plots, as I feel you should experience them for yourself and I never want to accidentally spoil anything, what can I say in a review for a seventh book in the series? Well, speaking of plot, and that it IS the seventh book, I can tell you that no matter what adventures that Alex has been on since time-slipping back in time from 2002 to the 17th Century, where she meets her soul mate Matthew Graham, Anna has twisted, turned, and intertwined plots in such a fashion, while keeping characters and historical facts in check, with not only grace, but with flawless precision. Also, with less long-winded sentences than the one I was just compelled to write.

No seriously, she writes with a flowing ability, filled with every ounce of love she’s squeezed from herself and put onto the page. I DO think that with each book, I enjoyed her writing more and felt it increasingly absorbing, captivating, and beautiful. The details she presents with each location in time, history, or as in this book their travels (yep, back aboard a ship) make me feel as if I’ve time slipped myself and traveled back in time. In this book, Anna’s personal experiences with Latin American culture shine through. I felt as if I landed on a beach and was observing that section of the book while sipping mango juice.

With Anna’s characters, as by now Alex and Matthew are older and much of the plot surrounds their children or extended family, she creates such distinct, vivid, and dimensional characters. There are those we love and those we hate. There are the normal issues for the time periods and locations, in this seventh book they are in the Colony of Maryland, and as a reader I feel the hardships as well as the love, the heartbreak as well as the joys. But also, there are the ghosts of their past to deal with, which keeps it extra interesting.

Anna does a tremendous job of balancing that all out within her novels, but especially this one in particular. And what I love most about Alex, besides her humor, is her unwavering desire to protect her children and make them happy. Second most, I love how she “keeps it real,” you know when she is hurt and why, and so does her family, but I adore their respect for her and how they appreciate her undying love and devotion. In other words, we feel her emotions are true and authentic and so her character is one that most readers can relate to easier.

As for Matthew, he does also shine in the novel, as this book’s plot takes him deep within himself to a place and time he probably wishes not to remember, as he helps his brother and nephew, at the peril and danger of himself and family. But that’s what he does, isn’t it? Always helping others? He does always somehow seem to find himself taking issues of the decade on with full speed. It’s his involvement that allows Anna to show us the social and religious undercurrents of the times they are in. I’m curious what decision he is about to make at the end of this seventh novel…ah, the suspense!

As for Matthew and Anna together, what a match made and watching their relationship and life unfold before my eyes is a pleasure. That’s why I like this title, Whither Thou Goest, as it truly is Alex’s motto to Matthew. “After all, where you go, I go, right?” said Alex.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed the story line in this book about Samuel, or White Bear, who is Alex’s son that was “adopted” by a Native American tribe. It was so touching and very well-done. I appreciated her portrayal of Native Americans. It reminded me of a story in my own heritage, when my ancestor was captured by the Native Americans during the American Revolution. He lived with them for a year before escaping back to where I live now and setting up a homestead. A story is told about meeting one of his fellow tribe members years later and it still being cordial. I often wonder what it was like for him to live with them and how he felt later in life about the experience. Somehow Anna channeled not only a mother’s emotion of this to Alex, but also she handled it well from all sides–Samuel, his adopted tribe, and Matthew–giving them all a voice in the matter that seemed realistic.

Anyway, I digress. Anna has many plot points to tie-up in this novel, new plots to move forward, old vendettas and issues to resolve, as well as new ones to decipher, and I am looking forward to seeing what her next, and most likely, final novel will hold in store. She seamlessly writes each and every one in a way that you are engaged and moved along in the story without any hindrance or comment. That’s why I think as I reader I most feel as if I am walking in a new place myself, removing myself from my world as I know it, and entering into a new adventure. I do hope she continues on with the series though, through the Graham children, if I must be selfish.

Anna writes Whither Thou Goest with flowing pen, flawless structure and sentences, intriguing and engaging plot, dimensional characters filled with emotion and authenticity, and gorgeous imagery. This is an excellent series worth the money so you should splurge on the entire set, as you’ll want to read this series from the start.

Whither Thou Goest, Synopsis~

01_Whither Thou GoestPublication Date: November 1, 2014
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip
Series: The Graham Saga

Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography~

03_Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates, and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half-grown, the house is at times eerily silent, and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

 

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/whitherthougoestblogtour/

Hashtags: #WhitherThouGoestBlogTour #GrahamSaga #Historical #TimeSlip

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @anna_belfrage

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Filed under Book Reviews