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Cambridge by Caryl Phillips

Cambridge (1991)

by Caryl Phillips

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Emily Cartwright is a 30 year old unmarried early 19th century Englishwoman whose father sends her to an unnamed Caribbean island to check on the state of his sugar plantation. She and her maidservant board a vessel that is ill-prepared for the women, and her aide does not survive the journey. She is a modern and refined woman, mildly opposed to slavery but quite naive about the benefits it provides to her and other wealthy Englanders. She keeps a journal of her voyage and stay at the plantation, in order to educate other Englishwomen about the immorality of plantation society.

When she arrives at the plantation, the manager she is expecting to meet has been replaced by a boorish and brutal overseer, Arnold Brown. He is especially harsh toward Cambridge, a well educated and devoutly Christian slave who refuses to subjugate to Brown's physical and psychological mistreatments. The conflict between the men progressively escalates until it reaches its tragic conclusion.

The first 2/3 of the book consists of Emily's journal. Most of the remainder of the book is Cambridge's account of his own life and his conflict with Brown, which seems to be hastily written in his final days. The juxtaposition between the characters' views of these events is striking, and the reader is not completely sure which account, if either, is accurate. The final pages include the Court's accounts of these events, which differ from Emily's or Cambridge's narrative, and ends with a final and most unexpected twist.

The two narratives are believable and captivating. Although he probably intended it this way, Cambridge's account is somewhat rushed and harried, and the ending is a bit too abrupt. However, this was a very enjoyable novel by a gifted storyteller. ( )
3 vote kidzdoc | Apr 22, 2009 |
The slave Cambridge is the unusual character - a well travelled and educated, free but once again trapped person. The good and bad is never clear, as despite (or because?) of all bad things done to Cambridge, he appears mad and violent as well.
  allsun | Jan 28, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679736891, Paperback)

One of England's most widely acclaimed young novelists adopts two eerily convincing narrative voices and juxtaposes their stories to devastating effect in this mesmerizing portrait of slavery. Cambridge is a devoutly Christian slave in the West Indies whose sense of justice is both profound and self-destructive, while Emily is a morally-blind, genteel Englishwoman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:15 -0400)

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When Miranda Lovelady and Dr. Bill Brockton discover what could be the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, their finding triggers a deadly tug of war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming, and trigger the end of time.… (more)

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