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A Respectable Trade Paperback – February 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743272544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743272544
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This moral spellbinder, set in Bristol, England, in the slave-trading 1780s, is being freshly issued a decade after publication Although the sentences are not as fine as in Gregory's current work (The Other Boleyn Girl etc.), and the plot takes some awkward leaps, the book brilliantly shocks the conscience with its intimate and unsparing portrait of slavery. It's a romance, but not a sentimental one, built around the impossible love between white slave owner Frances Scott Cole and the black African Mehuru, a priest and adviser to his king before being kidnapped and designated as property. A strength of the book is that although Gregory, as usual, makes us feel the second-class status of 18th century women, she draws no cheap comparison between Frances's status as silk-clad chattel (to her gaspingly ambitious slave-trader husband, Josiah's) and the rigors and terrors of a black slave's life. Superb portraits abound, especially that of Josiah's sister, Sarah, a cranky spinster who makes poetry of her pride in being a member of the trading class, eagle-eyed at the account books. Gregory's vivid portrait leaves one feeling complicit; as the abolitionist Doctor Hadley notes: "the cruelty we have learned will poison us forever."
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Review

"Philippa Gregory is a mesmerizing storyteller."
-- The Sunday Telegraph (London)

"When it comes to writers of historical fiction, Philippa Gregory is in the very top league."
-- Daily Mail (London)

"The great roar and sweep of history is successfully braided into the intimate daily detail of this compelling and intelligent book."
-- Penny Perrick, The Times (London)

More About the Author

Born in Kenya in 1954, Philippa Gregory moved to England with her family and was educated in Bristol and at the National Council for the Training of Journalists course in Cardiff. She worked as a senior reporter on the Portsmouth News, and as a journalist and producer for BBC radio.

Philippa obtained a BA degree in history at the University of Sussex in Brighton and a PhD at Edinburgh University in 18th-century literature. Her first novel, Wideacre, was written as she completed her PhD and became an instant world wide bestseller. On its publication, she became a full-time writer, and now lives with her family on a small farm in the North of England.

Her knowledge of gothic 18th century novels led to Philippa writing Wideacre, which was followed by a haunting sequel, The Favoured Child, and the delightful happy ending of the trilogy: Meridon. This novel was listed in Feminist Book Fortnight and for the Romantic Novel of the Year at the same time - one of the many instances of Philippa's work appealing to very different readers.

The trilogy was followed by The Wise Woman, a dazzling, disturbing novel of dark powers and desires set against the rich tapestry of the Reformation, and by Fallen Skies, an evocative realistic story set after the First World War. Her novel A Respectable Trade took her back to the 18th century where her knowledge of the slave trade and her home town of Bristol produced a haunting novel of slave trading and its terrible human cost. This is the only modern novel to explore the tragedies of slavery in England itself, and features a group of kidnapped African people trying to find their freedom in the elegant houses of 18th century Clifton. Gregory adapted her book for a highly acclaimed BBC television production which won the prize for drama from the Commission for Racial Equality and was shortlisted for a BAFTA for the screenplay.

Next came two of Gregory's best-loved novels, Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth, based on the true-life story of father and son John Tradescant working in the upheaval of the English Civil War. In these works Gregory pioneered the genre which has become her own: fictional biography, the true story of a real person brought to life with painstaking research and passionate verve.

The flowering of this new style was undoubtedly The Other Boleyn Girl, a runaway best-seller which stormed the US market and then went worldwide telling the story of the little-known sister to Anne Boleyn. Now published in 26 countries with more than a million copies in print in the US alone, this is becoming a classic historical novel, winning the Parker Pen Novel of the Year award 2002, and the Romantic Times fictional biography award. The Other Boleyn Girl was adapted for the BBC as a single television drama and a film is now in production starring Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn, Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn and Eric Bana as Henry VIII.

A regular contributor to newspapers and magazines, with short stories, features and reviews, Philippa is also a frequent broadcaster and a regular contestant on Round Britain Quiz for BBC Radio 4 and the Tudor expert for Channel 4's Time Team.

She lives in the North of England with her husband and two children and in addition to interests that include riding, walking, skiing and gardening (an interest born from research into the Tradescant family for her novel, Virgin Earth), she also runs a small charity building wells in school gardens in The Gambia. Fifty-six wells have been built by UK donors to date.

Customer Reviews

A little too racist for my liking.
Jennifer Cadle
You know that you will meet well developed characters who act out unlikely plots and hold your interest, even if story lines become a bit predictable.
Amazon Customer
I was riveted to my chair until the book was finished.
Marykay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Romance reader on January 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I wouldn't exactly call this a romance. More of a historical account of the horrors of slavery. Francis Scott marries a man that does not suit her at all. Considered old and impoverished, her new station in life is to teach the people her husband and his sister kidnap from Africa to sell as slaves - a fact Francis learns after she has married. Francis is quite caring and compassionate & soon falls for one of the slaves, Mehuru. Mehuru proves to be everything her own husband isn't - warm, caring, sensitive and attentive. The tale of this pair's faith and hope is downright heartbreaking. Knowing they can not live as a couple in England - especially with Francis' being married, Francis and Mehuru must hide their feelings for each other. Again, the horrors of slavery are shocking and disturbing . Pretty accurate in portrayal since slavery was one of the ugliest events in time. Philippa Gregory is often called a romance novelist. The title historical fiction writer would serve her better. This highly informed and talented writer's work is a pleasure to read! Although I enjoyed the novel, I found the ending to be a bit of a letdown. Too many loose-ends are left untied - rendering it only 4 stars.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Silverberg on May 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have to say, I found the main romance of this novel more than a bit unbelievable, but once I suspended my disbelief and gave the story a chance, it became very moving. I think one of the best things about the story is how every main character, no matter how misguided or negative their actions, is not a bad person. They all make mistakes, but they all have an element of decency, and each of them is trying to do what he or she feels is the right thing to do. The book is another affirmation of the basic evil of slavery, but it doesn't preach about it- Gregory makes the point through moving, character-driven scenes. This book really made me view history in an entirely new light.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lilly on February 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This well written historical novel gives a glimpse into a less well known aspect of slavery namely, the slave trade in England. The depictions of life in 18th C Bristol are believable. The follies of the newly rich are applicable to all times and were amusing. The romance between the Yoruban slave and the mistress of the house is a bit overdone but a useful vehicle for the plot. What kept this from being really excellent was the somewhat superficial characterizations.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
A Respectable Trade is a book that will definetly shock you. It is the story of two people - Yoruban seer and healer Mehuru, and the repressed English lady Francis Scott. In the beginning of the novel, Francis is thirty four, and becoming desperate for a husband. When she gets an offer from the social climbing merchant Josiah Cole, she quickly accepts. She finds out early in her marriage that Josiah has made most of his money from the "respectable" business of slave trading. At this same point, Mehuru has been captured, thrown on a boat bound for England... and the household of Josiah and Francis. This book is interesting more for its historical deatils and insight than for its (admittedly rather silly) romance. But the history is enough to make it an extremely thought provoking and intelligent book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Corrielle on July 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was very well written, but also very stark and unflinching in its portrayal of the slave trade in the city of Bristol at the end of the eighteenth century. It was not a nice time, and the city was neither genteel nor polite, no matter how much it pretended to be. The book captured this roughness, as well as the political maneuverings of the very rich, who managed to use everyone who was not included in their select circle for their own personal gain.
Enter into this scene one impoverished lady with only her good name, an ambitious merchant and his sister, and a highly educated slave, and you get a story filled with complicated loyalties and difficult questions. What impressed me about this book is that it offered no trite answers to these questions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Philippa Gregory is an enjoyable and dependable story teller. You know that you will meet well developed characters who act out unlikely plots and hold your interest, even if story lines become a bit predictable. A Respectable Trade, the story of a series of unlikely events set in Bristol toward the end of the 18th Century, follows this Gregory formula and solidly delivers.

Mehuru is a priest in the African kingdom of Yoruba and is on a quest to save his country from the ravages of slavery when he is beset upon and captured by white slavers from England. Perhaps ironically, his own slave is captured as well. Meanwhile, back in England, landless and aging Frances Scott is wearing her welcome thin under the roof of her uncle's lordly family and thus applies for a job as governess. Instead of a job, she is offered marriage by the man who interviewed her, one Josiah Cole. Cole is a struggling shipping merchant with ambition who sees ties to the Scott family as a stepping stone on his road to wealth and respect. His cold fish sister Sarah isn't too keen on Josiah's attempt to climb the social ladder. With no other options, Frances marries beneath her station and tries to make the best of it.

The charges she was originally interviewed to govern turn out to be a dozen or so African men, women and children. Sarah and Josiah believe that they can train these select slaves to be excellent house servants who speak the Queen's English and within 6 months turn a pretty profit by selling to select Bristol families. Frances, who has never considered the grisly details about how her families (new and of origin) make their money, finds herself questioning all she has known. She sure likes the comforts of upper class living...
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