Juliet Wilson's Reviews > Secret of the Sands

Secret of the Sands by Sara Sheridan
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Mar 15, 11

bookshelves: novels
Read in March, 2011

I was delighted to attend the recent launch of Sara Sheridan's new novel Secret of the Sands, as I had so enjoyed her earlier novel The Secret Mandarin.

Secret of the Sands is set in 1833. Lieutenant James Wellstead is travelling into the interior of the Arabian peninsula to find two of his shipmates who went missing on a surveillance trip.

In parallel the novel also follows the story of Zena, an Abyssinian slave girl bought by a desperate father to tempt his gay son into some semblance of heterosexuality. Zena and her master find a way to fooh his father and the household into thinking they are having a romantic relationship. Later, her master loses her in a gamble and she finds herself owned by Wellstead.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The setting is evoked beautifully and vividly and the characters and their relationships are well drawn. The issues of slavery and human rights are woven seamlessly into the story, so the reader is made to think about them without feeling as though we're being preached at. The characters of Wellstead and Zena are based on historical characters but the novel is a fictionalisation around the known historical facts. This is something that can annoy me if its not done well, but here (and in The Secret Mandarin) the historical facts feel to be respected within the telling of the story.

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