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Sugar Island by Sanjida O'Connell

Sugar Island (2011)

by Sanjida O'Connell

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Emily, an English actress, has arrived in Georgia to begin life with her new husband Charles. On arriving, Emily realises that Charles has been keeping a terrible secret from her - he is a slaveowner. She tries to reconcile herself to his way of life, but soon finds herself caught up in the lives of the slaves.… (more)



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I have a bit of an obsession with Fanny Kemble (1809-1893). She was an English actress and author who married Pierce Butler, a Georgian plantation owner. Fanny was horrified by the idea of slavery and by the treatment of slaves on her husband’s plantation. She became an ardent abolitionist, which led to her divorce from Butler.

I first learned about Fanny Kemble from a made-for-TV movie titled "Enslavement" starring Jane Seymour and Keith Carradine. It was totally happenstance that I ever watched this movie. My mother and I were looking through the TV listings for something to watch and decided to check out this movie because of our familiarity with Seymour as Dr. Quinn. The movie totally astounded both of us - an amazing story based on historical events, spectacular acting, perfect directing and sets. It’s probably been over ten years since we watched “Enslavement” and we still talk about it.

A few months after that, I serendipitously discovered a biography of Fanny Kemble in an antique shop. The book, “Fanny Kemble: A Passionate Victorian,” was published in 1938 and written by Margaret Armstrong. (I confess I haven’t read all of it yet, but my mother has, and her comments on the book only made me adore Fanny all the more.)

So, when I heard about “Sugar Island,” which is inspired by Fanny’s life story, I was beyond excited and purchased a copy as soon as possible. My mother read it first, and warned me that I might not like it. My expectations were high, but unfortunately, mom was right.

“Sugar Island” was a big disappointment. The sentence structure and grammar is dreadful. There is little character development and Emily (Fanny) was portrayed as a bit of an elitist snob. The plot is poorly executed and does not convey the emotionally tense story of Emily’s experience on the plantation or the difficulties in her marriage. The author does not even begin do justice to the amazing story of Fanny Kemble. Now I really want to watch the movie again…. ( )
  Her_Royal_Orangeness | Sep 9, 2012 |
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