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A Respectable Trade Paperback – Feb 1 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (Feb. 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743272544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743272544
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #163,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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"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)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER on Oct. 7 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an intriguing book by the author, with a story line that is simple enough. Frances Scott, an impoverished thirty-four year old, gently reared daughter of a cleric, is left to fend for herself by her dead father. Her uncle, Lord Scott, has been assisting her and has found her work as a governess, a job that she loathes. When an upstart tradesman, Josiah Cole, proposes matrimony, she jumps at the chance. It is a marriage of the utmost convenience.

What she does not know is that her husband and his spinster sister, Sarah, trade in slaves, as well as other commodities. When a shipment of slaves comes in, Frances is expected to train the slaves to be servants that can then be sold to wealthy families. After all, having an African servant was all the rage in late eighteenth century England. Her instruction of her captives is a slow process, giving Frances an opportunity to get to know her slaves and the cruelties that have been inflicted upon them. She is, however, without resources to help them.

Along the way, she falls in love with Mehuru, her major domo, and he with her. Therein lies the rub. In eighteenth century England, it was unheard of for a lady of gentle breeding to do so, and Frances has not the strength to follow her heart. Meanwhile, her ambitious husband is oblivious to all that is going on in his household, and involves himself in one scheme after another, trusting on some new found friendships that are suspicious at best. When he finds that his "friends" have merely taken him for a ride, all hell breaks loose.

Much of the dialogue between Frances and Mehuru is pretty laughable, reading like a bad Harlequin romance. Their love affair simply does not ring true.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Giusy Oddo on Sept. 2 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book absolutely fascinating. As usual, Philippa Gregory gives us an extraordinarily realistic and unusual insight into an historical period. She makes us live an historical moment through the details of everyday life and everyday people. The plot is captivating, with a good portrait of characters and situations. The story is daring,very illuminating on a particular and tragic social phenomenon. Very original and revealing picture of a tragic time in our history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shirwan Mirza, MD on July 4 2007
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books. In addition to being an enjoable read,, one would learn well-researched historical facts about slave trade that deprived Africa of its sons and daughters of talents.
Its consequences could be seen even today. This book lends a human dimension to this historical tragedy. We hear the slaves telling their stories around the kitchen table of their masters. We hear their cries, their laughter, their longing for their families and their homeland. The novel also shows the shallow thinking of those slave masters. Even the protagonist of the story, who is supposed to be a sympathetic figure, is superficial in her thinking and even hypocritical.
She wanted to have it all: wealth, status, and empty aristocratic titles. Then she sought love and lust from the very people she enslaved and stripped from basic human rights including the right to have non-English names; and she insisted on keeping them slaves up to the very end. The African man is a great personality. He shocked his masters with his intelligence and wisdom and the speed with which he excelled in their language.
He drew strength from the memories of his homeland. He drew warmth from the bright sun shining in the sky of his hometown while suffering the dark clouds of his new life.
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By Amber Willis on April 9 2008
Format: Paperback
This was an enjoyable, light read. It brought to light some of the many issues surrounding the slave trade. This book was well written and the characters came alive while reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 102 reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic read Jan. 1 2007
By Romance reader - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
good historical fiction Feb. 1 2002
By Lilly - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
An intriguing premise May 12 2005
By Deborah Silverberg - Published on Amazon.com
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.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A tour de force about the horrors of slavery Dec 7 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An honest, unflinching historical novel July 17 2000
By Corrielle - Published on Amazon.com
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.