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Fireburn Paperback – October 1, 2017
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"Rich in description, Fireburn is a well-researched novel that shines a light on a historic period in St. Croix that has received little attention in literature until now." Gillian Royes, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay
"Gidley is a skilful and assured story-teller, unafraid to take on complexities of race, class and gender, while at the same time creating unforgettable characters and a story that kept me reading deep into the night." Matthew Parker, The Sugar Barons
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Anna returns after many years to the Danish West Indies after her mother dies. It is a country she had loved and longed for those many years, and she looks forward to her return, but is met by an ailing father and an estate that is suffering big financial losses. Shortly after, her father dies, and Anna makes a disastrous marriage with Carl Pederson, their neighbor. It is then that she realizes her real feelings for Sam (Sampson) although they are oceans apart not just in status but in cultures too. This love story is set against the backdrop of the black labour uprising of 1878, from which the title takes its name.
The love story is sensitively portrayed. Anna, the protagonist, is a woman ahead of her time who is not just against slavery but truly believes in the equality of man. Sam possesses those noble qualities like pragmatism, courage and self-awareness that any woman would admire. The two have some tender moments together, and although the times were such that a marriage between a black man and a white woman were well-nigh impossible, they cannot deny their feelings for each other. Indeed, the story is all the more poignant because of this very reason.
The descriptions of nature and the surroundings take you to the heart of the story; the lush, tropical vegetation with its riot of colors, the crumbling estate echoing its former grandeur- all this is beautifully evoked. The story is replete with the sights, sounds and smells of the island.
All the characters grow and change. Anna, from a plucky girl to a more mature woman who nevertheless holds on to her values and beliefs, Sam who acknowledges his feelings for his mistress but who has the self-awareness to realize how dangerous this liaison can be, Ivy who came prepared to hate the island but grew to love it, and Emiline who, under the firm yet kind supervision of Anna, changed from a disgruntled employee to a loyal and loving friend. The main characters are all driven by love, and the antagonists meet a just end with their policy of hatred.
The one defect I find (and this is just my opinion) is that the four different voices makes reading this novel difficult. It is not a smooth read as, just as we are immersed in the life of one character, we abruptly switch to someone else’s point of view. I feel just two voices would have been enough to convey the essence of the story and push the plot forward.
However, this is a debut novel I thoroughly enjoyed reading as it took me on a journey to a place and time I knew very little about. I would give it four stars.
I received this book free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. ~Amy's Bookshelf Reviews
This is not just a captivating historical romance. It’s a fast-paced and exciting ‘page-turner’ based on solid research into one of the most interesting periods in Caribbean history.
How pleasantly surprised was I to find a thoughtful, well-researched and exciting tale filled with characters I immediately fell in love with (or hated!) and events which kept me up far into the night just to see how things turned out!
For who has not been enthralled by the charm and mystery of the Caribbean, it’s beautiful and powerful natural phenomena, its unique mysticism and it’s colourful turbulent past?
Yes, there is a beautiful, strong-willed and capable heroine, and yes, there is a tall, strong, handsome and slightly mysterious hero. But the path of their blossoming relationship is tangled with personal tragedy, devastating natural and historical events and the ever present challenges of social convention.
An obvious love of this extraordinary part of the world has lent the author descriptive wings as she draws us to the powerful beauty of the island of St Croix. The characters are cleverly endeared to us as they take turns to reveal the story in their own words. The twists and turns of the plot, wrapped around the turbulent events unique to it’s setting, make for an exciting and absorbing read.