Mrsgaskell's Reviews > A Respectable Trade

A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory
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Aug 03, 10

bookshelves: 8-star, british, library
Read in April, 2010

** spoiler alert ** This is well-written historical fiction and a good read. Frances Scott is thirty-four years old, and has been struggling as a governess since her clergyman father left her unprovided for. Her uncle Lord Scott is fond of her but his wife and daughters are not welcoming to a poor relation. While looking for a new position as a governess, Frances receives an offer of marriage from a Bristol trader, Josiah Cole. She is not well suited to governessing and sees this as the best offer she is likely to receive. Josiah sees this as a means to higher status leading to better business connections. His spinster sister and partner in trade, Sarah, is not pleased by the marriage and the increased expenses it will bring. The trade is of course the slave trade. They bring trade goods to Africa, where they obtain slaves, which they transport to the West Indies buying sugar, tobacco, and rum from the proceeds. To increase profits they have decided to bring some slaves to
England to be trained as household help. Frances learns after her marriage that she is to be responsible for teaching these slaves. Although aware of the slave trade, she had no real idea of what it meant to individuals and to African countries until she meets the Africans she is to train, in particular Mehuru, renamed Cicero. She falls in love with Cicero and given her upbringing and her nature, I wasn’t sure if it was that likely that she would act as she did. The background on Mehuru’s life prior to his capture, and the ups and downs of Josiah Cole’s business dealings also added a lot of interest to this novel.

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