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A Respectable Trade PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: A Respectable Trade
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publisher: Published February 1st 2007 by Touchstone (first published December 23rd 1994)
ISBN: 9780743272544
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

91517.A_Respectable_Trade.pdf

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Bristol in 1787 is booming, a city where power beckons those who dare to take risks. Josiah Cole, a small dockside trader, is prepared to gamble everything to join the big players of the city. But he needs capital and a well-connected wife. Marriage to Frances Scott is a mutually convenient solution. Trading her social contacts for Josiah's protection, Frances finds her lif Bristol in 1787 is booming, a city where power beckons those who dare to take risks. Josiah Cole, a small dockside trader, is prepared to gamble everything to join the big players of the city. But he needs capital and a well-connected wife. Marriage to Frances Scott is a mutually convenient solution. Trading her social contacts for Josiah's protection, Frances finds her life and fortune dependent on the respectable trade of sugar, rum, and slaves. Into her new world comes Mehuru, once a priest in the ancient African kingdom of Yoruba, now a slave in England. From opposite ends of the earth, despite the difference in status, Mehuru and Frances confront each other and their need for love and liberty.

30 review for A Respectable Trade

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    If your view of Philippa Gregory is of an English historical novelist with a romantic slant, that is a fair description. She has won the "Romantic Novel of the Year Award" among others. But with A Respectable Trade, published in 1992, she was aiming for something a little different. It is an historical novel about the slave trade in England, and set in 18th century Bristol. Highly regarded, the script she wrote from it won an award from the "Committee for Racial Equality", and the film was subse If your view of Philippa Gregory is of an English historical novelist with a romantic slant, that is a fair description. She has won the "Romantic Novel of the Year Award" among others. But with A Respectable Trade, published in 1992, she was aiming for something a little different. It is an historical novel about the slave trade in England, and set in 18th century Bristol. Highly regarded, the script she wrote from it won an award from the "Committee for Racial Equality", and the film was subsequently shown worldwide. Philippa Gregory is clearly aware of her reputation for embroidering the facts. She stated that she had never before felt the need to write an author's note for her novels, but that, "this book is about a topic so important to me that I wanted to emphasise some of the historical facts". It may come as a surprise to some readers that the black population in the city of London alone, in the 18th century, was about 15 thousand people. It was to diminish in the next two centuries, because of recruitment of cheap labour from the Empire. Also, intermarriages between black and white people became more common, resulting in many descendants who passed as white. Another part of the book which the author felt might be assumed to be her fancy, was a portrayal of one of the more obscenely grotesque characters, whom she said was based on a Thomas Thistlewood of Jamaica, who kept a detailed explicit diary about his rapes of slaves. Furthermore, an incredibly cruel bridle which comes into the novel, was apparently in common use in the West Indian sugar plantations. It is clear that Philippa Gregory has done her best to write a powerful novel about the devastating consequences of the slave trade in 18th century Bristol; one which will prick the consciences of many readers. The message in the title, that slavery was endemic, a so-called "respectable trade", and intrinsically linked to the trade in sugar, rum and tobacco, is threaded throughout the novel. The whole character of England itself was based on this rich industry. Bristol in 1787 was booming, with wealthy shipping docks and elegant new houses. But factions were beginning to be aware of the torment the tradition of slavery had caused to many thousands of people, and England lay poised on the brink of irrevocable change, with upcoming antislavery legislation. Part of the novel details how William Wilberforce, the English politician and philanthropist, made an attempt at that time, to bring a Bill to abolish the slave trade to Parliament, and how it was defeated by filibustering. The institution of slavery is thus at the heart of this story, and all the characters in the novel are involved in the trade, or profiting from it - either directly or indirectly. In one way or another, slavery drives all their actions. The novel mainly concerns Frances Scott, an orphan who is living on the kindness of her aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Scott, and working unhappily as a governess. She sees an advertisement for a new position advertised by Josiah Cole, a merchant involved in the slave trade. Frances has always known about slavery but only in a distant way, "She had no notion of Africa before the coming of the British, of a huge continent populated by a complex of different peoples and kingdoms, of trading and barter stations, of caravans of goods which crossed from one nation to another; of men and women, some living like peasants working the land, some living in towns and cities and working in industries, some established in hereditary kingdoms seated on thrones of gold and ivory and living like gods. She had no interest in the slaves as people who had come from a living and potent culture." Although she assumes that Josiah Cole wishes to employ a governess, he has no children, and she learns that what attracts him is the thought of a well-connected wife. Marriage to a small dockside trader would be a significant step down for the highborn Frances, but she decides that an arranged marriage would provide the security she needs, and it seems like a mutually convenient solution. She thereby trades her social contacts for Josiah's protection. The other main character is Mehuru, a highranking official, trained as a priest and with arcane religious abilities. He lives as a member of the Royal Court, in the ancient African kingdom of Yoruba. Ironically, as we first encounter Mehuru, he himself owns a slave, although slave-owning in Yoruba is not at all the cruel dehumanising industry we are to read of later, but more a convenient and sometimes temporary arrangement between two individuals. Mehuru is captured, and the first few chapters detail his horrific experiences as he desperately tries to communicate with his captors, and to convince them that he is an emissary, travelling through parts of Africa, to convey a message from the higher priests concerning their internal anti-slavery decisions. We have learned of Mehuru's life prior to his capture, and empathise with his complete belief that he will be released when his identity is discovered. We see him gradually break down; we see him degraded and humbled, as he realises how utterly impotent he now is. He has quickly become acknowledged as the adviser and leader of this disparate group of thirteen slaves. We have also begun to appreciate all the different countries in Africa which the other slaves have come from. Some are also from Yoruba, but two women are Fulani. They are members of a nomadic people, and lived the life of herdspeople. Their huts, set in a circle, would be carelessly made because they were temporary. But their crafts, woven fabrics, palm-leaf baskets, carefully hand-carved wooden items, were fine and beautiful, "It was a life that turned in tune with the earth, that followed the rains, that chimed with the seasons. It was as alien to slavery as a silver-winged flight of cattle egrets to a moulting hen in a coop." Another slave is Mandinka and one is Wolof. They all speak different languages, and we witness the total incomprehension as well as the barbarity of the sailors who have taken these people from their homes. It is a difficult read, and one which should shame much of humanity. Philippa Gregory makes a fine job of conveying the disgust each race feels for the physical aspects of the other. Only as the novel proceeds do individuals, whether white or black, begin to see people with a different skin colour from them, and from a different country, as fellow humans rather than just animals or sub-human creatures to depise. Parts of the story, such as that of the slave called "Died-of-Shame" may reduce you to tears. Frances and Mehuru are the main characters, but we also follow the Cole family's story. Josiah Cole is gullible and ambitious. Unlike Frances, he is morally ambivalent, desperate for ready cash, and prepared to gamble everything to join the big players of the city. But both he and his sister had very humble beginnings. Their father was a collier, and his older sister Sarah has worked hard all her life to establish a firm base for their trade, "I was born on the floor of a miner's hovel...I have been poor, Josiah, as you were not. You were born when we were on the rise; you know nothing about hardship... I have gone barefoot for lack of shoes and hungry for lack of food... we are in a little trow on a great river of poverty." The conflict between the two forms an interesting dynamic. Also involved is a pro-abolitionist Dr. Stuart Hadley. The author explores the moral quandry of people such as this doctor, who feels trapped by the knowledge that he has also benefited by the very trade he now despises, "I used to take sugar in my tea, and I still love sweet puddings... My university is endowed by rich men who draw their wealth from the colonies. My patients are all Traders. We all profit from the thieving in Africa. If we stopped it tomorrow we would still be rich from their loss...I believe the Trade will be ended...But the cruelty we have learned will poison us forever." And we have the opposite view, of Sir Charles Fairley, an abominably cruel and ignorant, but very wealthy and powerful, man. He is usually shown very effectively from Frances's point of view, as she gradually begins to learn the horrors of the slave trade. Frances has been taken on to teach thirteen slaves bought by her husband, in order that they can be sold as fashionable novelty servants for selected members of the rich London aristocracy, at a premium rate. She therefore finds that her life and entire fortune are now dependent on the trade of sugar, rum - and slaves. She has come face to face with the real people involved in slavery from both ends, including those brought to her house as slaves, captured and bought with her own money. The novel provides an interesting analysis of how an individual's attitudes can change. The Bristol merchants do not seem to adapt at all, and neither do Frances's relatives, but those in her household mostly shift position as the novel progresses. Even the cook and servants, initially as exclusive, aggressive and judgemental as anyone, begin to side with the slaves, and the reader sees that both underclasses are forming a sort of solidarity. The storyline is an interesting one, and Philippa Gregory has some skill in conveying both a strong sense of place and the immediacy of the moment. The first two thirds of the book are highly enjoyable as a fictionalised account, of a possible scenario, in a very real snapshot of part of England's shameful history. However, a plot development had been signalled very early on, and the final chapters sacrifice much for this particular plotline. A romantic element is only a part of a strong story such as this. It is always in danger of overwhelming the text, as it does here. Fundamentally Philippa Gregory's interest lies in the realms of highly-coloured speculation and romance. A popular English historical novelist, she has written a couple of historical novels set during the English Civil War, a 17th century trilogy about the love of land and about incest, novels about the Plantagenets, ruling houses which preceded the Tudors, and also novels about the Wars of the Roses. In recent years Philippa Gregory seems to have cornered the market in these novels set in the Tudor period, with "The Other Boleyn Girl" being such a runaway success, that it was dramatised both for televison and also made into a film, spawning many sequels, and many further very popular series on television. The attraction could lie with her selection of specific females; often historical noblewomen who have up to now only been noteworthy in the history books in terms of their potential for breeding, or in making favourable marriages for diplomatic or financial reasons. Philippa Gregory's treatment of these characters turns them into passionate, independent women, invariably with a very modern outlook. It is an appealing treatment - and clearly very successful. Whether it gives us an authentic historical view of these women is another matter. A Respectable Trade is a good yarn and it comes from a good place, attempting to tussle with the many complex moral issues involved in this aspect of history. However the characters in the story are highly speculative, and I feel the situations are sometimes contrived. Hence it remains a solid three star read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Spoilers (some pretty serious ones): So maybe you're an entitled, upper class lady living in the 1780s. You have an inkling that slavery isn't as morally sound as your church suggests. But what if the slave trade is keeping you in fancy hats? Can you overlook the severe, continuous, dehumanizing oppression? Even when you meet a slave who becomes an odd combination of servant, friend, and lover? Does the cognitive dissonance start tearing you apart? Here's what you do: you die. You die on the last Spoilers (some pretty serious ones): So maybe you're an entitled, upper class lady living in the 1780s. You have an inkling that slavery isn't as morally sound as your church suggests. But what if the slave trade is keeping you in fancy hats? Can you overlook the severe, continuous, dehumanizing oppression? Even when you meet a slave who becomes an odd combination of servant, friend, and lover? Does the cognitive dissonance start tearing you apart? Here's what you do: you die. You die on the last page of the book, while having the baby born of the passionate tryst with the household slave, so you never have to come to terms with any of these problems. You don't even worry about what people will say when you give birth to a mixed race child! You just die! I think Philippa Gregory does a better job than most historical fiction writers of creating characters that seem appropriate for their time. (Ken Follet, for example, is about the worst at dropping people with 21st century worldviews into the 1100s.) At least Frances' inner conflict seemed genuine. Throughout the course of the novel, we see her grow and re-evaluate her way of thinking. But she never has to make the hard choice. She relies on social tricks and subtle manipulation to preserve the increasingly inappropriate relationship she has with Mehuru, but up and dies before she has to either set him free (and acknowledge him as human) or sell him (and acknowledge him as property). Still, a worthwhile read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holley

    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, car 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Licinia

    Óptima leitura!!! Um registo diferente de uma escritora que nos habituou ao romance histórico, e que aqui na ficção mantém a sua qualidade. Todas as suas personagens estão bem estruturadas, mas o Mehuru (o escravo) foi o que mais me emocionou e cativou...a descrição na primeira pessoa da sua captura, da viagem no navio e os seus sentimentos durante a mesma...foi muito poderosa e forte e deixou-me tão triste e revoltada com o que o homem é capaz de fazer a outro homem (leia-se género humano). Ass Óptima leitura!!! Um registo diferente de uma escritora que nos habituou ao romance histórico, e que aqui na ficção mantém a sua qualidade. Todas as suas personagens estão bem estruturadas, mas o Mehuru (o escravo) foi o que mais me emocionou e cativou...a descrição na primeira pessoa da sua captura, da viagem no navio e os seus sentimentos durante a mesma...foi muito poderosa e forte e deixou-me tão triste e revoltada com o que o homem é capaz de fazer a outro homem (leia-se género humano). Assim como o amor e a dedicação que ele devotou a Frances até ao fim.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carmo

    “Creio que nunca saberemos quantos homens, mulheres e crianças foram raptados em África e vendidos como escravos. Segundo a maioria dos historiadores, terão atravessado o Atlântico entre quinze e vinte milhões de escravos." PHILIPPA GREGORY A premissa era boa e a autora alinhavou a história com todos os ingredientes para um belíssimo livro. Lamentavelmente, o desenrolar ficou aquém do esperado e não me convenceu. As personagens foram mornas – quando não irritantes – e andei sempre um passo à fren “Creio que nunca saberemos quantos homens, mulheres e crianças foram raptados em África e vendidos como escravos. Segundo a maioria dos historiadores, terão atravessado o Atlântico entre quinze e vinte milhões de escravos." PHILIPPA GREGORY A premissa era boa e a autora alinhavou a história com todos os ingredientes para um belíssimo livro. Lamentavelmente, o desenrolar ficou aquém do esperado e não me convenceu. As personagens foram mornas – quando não irritantes – e andei sempre um passo à frente dos acontecimentos, coisa que me arrelia profundamente! É suposto os autores serem mais astutos que o leitor e conseguirem surpreender pelo inesperado, mas tal não aconteceu. Até ao final esperei por algo deveras impactante, em vez disso, a autora optou pelo desfecho mais previsível, e que era também a saída mais fácil. Ainda fiquei com as pontas soltas nas mãos, e uma mera sugestão de soluções que não se sabe que desfecho iriam ter. Mas gostei de conhecer o "filho" deste livro. Quando fazia pesquisa para Um Comércio Respeitavel Philippa Gregory foi convidada a participar num projeto humanitário para a Gâmbia. Gardens for The Gambia, promove a construção de poços nas escolas e incentiva as crianças a cultivarem uma horta de onde recolhem alimentos variados que são um valioso suplemento para a sua dieta feita quase exclusivamente de arroz. Um pequeno milagre que começou com um poço, tornou-se uma obra de caridade oficialmente registada, e já ajudou milhares de crianças e familiares.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carla Faleiro

    Como sempre, uma leitura fabulosa! Esta autora nunca me desilude, um livro escrito por ela é a garantia de uma boa leitura.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    I went into this book with some expectation that it would be better than "Fallen Skies," which left me greatly disappointed with the sketchy characterizations. This book, however, continued that disappointment. Most of the characters in this book suffer from two dimensions (at most). Some, like Sarah Cole, remained one-note throughout. What struck me most was that both Mehuru and Frances were not pitiable in the deserving sense (as the premise surely demanded), but pitiful in the contemptuous se I went into this book with some expectation that it would be better than "Fallen Skies," which left me greatly disappointed with the sketchy characterizations. This book, however, continued that disappointment. Most of the characters in this book suffer from two dimensions (at most). Some, like Sarah Cole, remained one-note throughout. What struck me most was that both Mehuru and Frances were not pitiable in the deserving sense (as the premise surely demanded), but pitiful in the contemptuous sense. I couldn't care one way or another how their lives turned out. Mehuru's reasons for loving Frances so deeply were not convincingly drawn. And while I understand that Gregory wanted to illustrate the captive conditions that Frances suffered, she was so weak and so unsympathetic in her inaction & submission that I despised her for most of the book. Starting around page 250, I gave up on trying to enjoy it and instead decided to appreciate the detail of the Bristol atmosphere (the only evocative portion of the entire book - even the descriptions of the hellish slave holds seemed generic) and laugh out loud at the insane bouts of dialogue and erratic behavior of the characters (i.e., meek and mild Frances embarking on a wide-eyed, disheveled screaming fit at Josiah about the duplicity of the Merchant Venturers). Gregory didn't seem engaged with these characters at all, though an interview segment at the end of the book implies that she was. But the treatment of the characters seems at arm's length or, at best, haphazard. For instance, Sarah disappears for about 100 pages of the book, although the majority of the action takes place inside the house where, presumably, Sarah is still living. At the end, Frances lays in bed, heavily pregnant, and arouses no suspicions due to a convenient array of bedclothes. Perhaps Gregory intended these absurd oversights as a way to show how disengaged the characters had become with each other, but it just so happened to disengage this reader as well. By the end I was as listless as the pathetic, throat-clutching Frances. But the book read fast (a week) and I heckled it to hold my interest, so the entertainment value was high. I hear her Tudor novels are good, so I'll stick with this author for another go. Even if the history is crap, maybe it'll be more entertaining. But so far, it's 0 for 2. ETA: Every author has their off days, and in the time since I read this one, I read & greatly enjoyed her HF on Katherine of Aragon, The Constant Princess. That experience made me reconsider my attitude towards continuing to read Gregory and I now look forward to reading more of her books and even re-attempt Fallen Skies. She's an author that gets the sand up the vajayjays of some people, but there's enough that's entertaining and interesting about her stuff to make me continue to be interested in her work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Words can't describe how annoying this book was (although I'm willing to try). I like Philippa Gregory a lot - she reminds me of a historical Jackie Collins. In general, her books are smutty and fun. (Although I'm glad she got the incest out of her system early in her career, 'cause that was a tad creepy.) If this book was JUST historical fiction, it would've been trashy, a bit melodramatic and pretty dang fun to read. However, Ms. Gregory had to make it a romance too, which ruined it. I wasn't s Words can't describe how annoying this book was (although I'm willing to try). I like Philippa Gregory a lot - she reminds me of a historical Jackie Collins. In general, her books are smutty and fun. (Although I'm glad she got the incest out of her system early in her career, 'cause that was a tad creepy.) If this book was JUST historical fiction, it would've been trashy, a bit melodramatic and pretty dang fun to read. However, Ms. Gregory had to make it a romance too, which ruined it. I wasn't surprised by the plot since the romance was featured prominently on the back cover blurb. I just felt if Frances (the slave trader's wife) was going to go against her society norms and shake off every prejudice she had ever been taught, she needed a little wooing from the object of her affection! At least have him wear some skintight pants and sweat a lot while doing a manly task like woodchopping. (That's how Harlequins do it.) Instead, Mehuru (the slave) walked in the room for about the 7th time in the book and the two were suddenly deeply in love. It was so abrupt (and so odd) I kept checking the page numbers to make sure I hadn't missed some important clue as to what the heck was going on.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    I always compare Philippa Gregory to Celine Dion: despite their undeniable talent, people always enjoy dismissing them as inferior artists and I am left to wonder why. Having read "The Other Boleyn Girl" which was very pleasant to read, I decided it to read another book with a different theme from the accomplished british author: This time its theme is the slavery trade in the 18th century. And I am glad I did it because I found it a most wonderful depiction of a most shameful period of time. Pr I always compare Philippa Gregory to Celine Dion: despite their undeniable talent, people always enjoy dismissing them as inferior artists and I am left to wonder why. Having read "The Other Boleyn Girl" which was very pleasant to read, I decided it to read another book with a different theme from the accomplished british author: This time its theme is the slavery trade in the 18th century. And I am glad I did it because I found it a most wonderful depiction of a most shameful period of time. Prepare yourself to find very poignant and heartwrenching scenes in this novel given its theme. I also enjoyed the fact that, though we know the character´s motives sometimes are very( enormously) wrong we still understand them as Philippa Gregory created her characters in a very believable way. Very well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Renae (Romantic Parvenu)

    In historical fiction circles, Philippa Gregory is not generally recognized for her accuracy or seriousness. Her books are high on drama and glamor, and her reputation is for, at the very least, embroidering the details. I’ve read one of her Tudor novels, and it was perfectly fine, though it lacked staying power or memorability. A Respectable Trade is not like Gregory’s Plantagenet or Tudor books. It is, rather, a genuine and honest attempt to look into the English slave trade and the destructio In historical fiction circles, Philippa Gregory is not generally recognized for her accuracy or seriousness. Her books are high on drama and glamor, and her reputation is for, at the very least, embroidering the details. I’ve read one of her Tudor novels, and it was perfectly fine, though it lacked staying power or memorability. A Respectable Trade is not like Gregory’s Plantagenet or Tudor books. It is, rather, a genuine and honest attempt to look into the English slave trade and the destruction it caused. If it is also an unlikely romance between a slave and his mistress, well…it’s still Philippa Gregory, after all. A Respectable Trade takes place in the port city of Bristol in 1787. The city—indeed much of the kingdom—thrives on the slave trade, while elsewhere William Wilberforce is just beginning his decades’ long campaign for the abolition of the trade. Into this mix comes gently-bred Frances, forced by economic necessity to marry a merchant far below her station. Frances is confronted for the first time with the realities of slavery in Bristol, and finds that it’s far harder to condone such injustice when you’re witnessing beatings, rapes, and gross dehumanization under one’s own roof (especially when one of the victims happens to be the love of your life). And I guess if we wanted to get right into it, there are some problematic things happening in this story. The slave/mistress romance itself is slightly troubling, because Mehuru doesn’t have the capability of providing consent, technically speaking. The relationship is honestly doomed from the beginning; as Gregory points out, most free blacks in England did intermarry with white women, but certainly not with the noblewomen who were unused to poverty or social censure. This is the one area where A Respectable Trade strays into improbability, but Gregory clearly recognizes this, and doesn’t create some kind of unbelievable situation in which the doomed romance gets to thrive. Frances and Mehuru are both, individually, protagonists in their own right, though they have a sort-of romance in common. I think A Respectable Trade begins skewed more towards Frances, but by the end the story and resolution are very much Mehuru’s—which I think is good, because had this become a book about how the noble white woman redeemed herself, we might have had problems. Rather, by the end, Gregory allows Mehuru’s arc to take the spotlight, and his future is the one the reader is most invested in. Which, I think, is as it should be. That being said, the criticism some readers have made about the way Frances’s moral quandry is resolved in the final chapter is pretty valid. Rather than have Frances be brave and confront injustice and live bravely for her convictions, she gets to…die. Kind of a cop-out on Gregory’s part, though it’s possibly preferable to France and Mehuru sailing off to Sierra Leone to live happily together forever and ever. But like I said, this is still a Philippa Gregory book. What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that for a privileged white woman whose ancestors doubtless benefitted greatly from the institution of slavery, Philippa Gregory really does approach the topic with delicacy and thoughtfulness. The text doesn’t shy away from the truly brutal aspects of the slave trade, which Gregory is quick to informs readers are 100% accurate (lest we think she’s embroidering the facts again). White people are not given get out of jail free cards at any point in A Respectable Trade—both Frances the protagonist and the “radical” abolitionist character have prejudice and racism (in spite of good intentions) that are prominently displayed and examined. Gregory is not about to make excuses for anyone in this book. The story and resolution are still a bit romanticized, and things could have taken an even darker, more realistic turn, but honestly this is a pretty surprising subject for the author in question, and I’m impressed. A Respectable Trade is not what you expect from Philippa Gregory, but I think it showcases her talents and abilities a lot better than her more recent poolside-type historical fiction (based on the one Tudor book I’ve read).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I have always enjoyed Gregory's historical novels, my favorites being Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth, both of which focused on England's place in the world as a nation of gardeners. I picked up A Respectable Trade at the library last week, having seen it in a BBC production years ago and not realizing it was based on a book by Gregory. The BBC production was pretty faithful to the book, as it turns out. The TV program had introduced me to a piece of history with which I had little or no knowledge I have always enjoyed Gregory's historical novels, my favorites being Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth, both of which focused on England's place in the world as a nation of gardeners. I picked up A Respectable Trade at the library last week, having seen it in a BBC production years ago and not realizing it was based on a book by Gregory. The BBC production was pretty faithful to the book, as it turns out. The TV program had introduced me to a piece of history with which I had little or no knowledge...the involvement of British merchants and their ships in the American slave trade. While I find some details of the book regarding the training of slaves to be a bit far-fetched in terms of the speed and efficiency with which it was accomplished, nevertheless, the story is engaging, and certainly makes it clear that the British were no less cruel than the Americans in their treatment of their "cargo" in the Middle Passage and on plantations in Jamaica...in fact, the sugar plantations in Jamaica in most respects were much worse than any plantations in the colonies/US. That is not to excuse our role in the history of slavery, only to point out that we were not alone, and that we were not the worst, whatever consolation that might provide.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth ♛Smart Girls Love Trashy Books♛

    -POTENTIAL SPOILERS- Despite how much controversy Philippa Gregory has around her books, I will never stop reading them. They're a lot of fun to read and also interesting, even if not everything is a hundred percent historically accurate. This was a totally different direction for her, and I think it payed off fairly well. Instead of writing of the intricacies of the Tudor Court, she instead heads forward in time to write about the brutality of the Bristol slave trade and the romance between a n -POTENTIAL SPOILERS- Despite how much controversy Philippa Gregory has around her books, I will never stop reading them. They're a lot of fun to read and also interesting, even if not everything is a hundred percent historically accurate. This was a totally different direction for her, and I think it payed off fairly well. Instead of writing of the intricacies of the Tudor Court, she instead heads forward in time to write about the brutality of the Bristol slave trade and the romance between a noblelady and one of her slaves. I liked seeing Frances grow as a character. She starts out being shy and submissive, willing to do whatever people tell her to do without asking any questions, but as the novel continues, she slowly becomes more independent, and realizes that what her husband is doing isn't entirely sound at all. I also liked seeing Mehuru and his interactions with the other slaves. I wish they had a bit more development though, especially Mehuru, seeing as how he was one of the main characters. The writing is typical Philippa Gregory style, and it's utilized very well in this novel. Everything is descriptive, and it's gritty and realistic. She uses lots of unflinching descriptions in this, and it pays off really well. However, it was a fairly slow novel at points, mainly because a lot of the dialogue just focused on trade and business. I understand why, but I didn't think so much focus on it was entirely necessary. I also felt the other side characters weren't developed enough. There was simply too many of them, and I think she should've kept the focus on the two main characters, and then maybe throw in another side character or two to develop. I also felt the romance wasn't developed well-enough. It was there, but I felt like it could've been explained a bit better. Why do the two care for each other as much as they do? Overall, it was a decent book that taught me something new, and it was a risk that paid off for this author, in my opinion. Wasn't necessarily my thing, but I'm sure some people out there would love this a lot.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Not really my type of story. Just think for half the book nothing happened, and I found it sooo difficult to read? Then all of a sudden everyone is in love and double crossing? Also I KNOW it's written to highlight how awful and horrific slavery was- and is-, and this comes across at the start, but it sort of just becomes part of the story and a bit 'white people solve racism' at the end. Think Mehuru loses his character a bit as well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Accepting that she doesn't have any better prospects at the age of 34, Frances Scott enters into a marriage of convenience with a Bristol trader. She is soon after presented with a shipload of African slaves and instructed to school them in English and domestic duties so that they may be sold as servants to wealthy English households. With time, Frances begins to doubt the common assertion of the time that the slaves are animals and cannot be educated. One in particular, Mehuru, challenges every Accepting that she doesn't have any better prospects at the age of 34, Frances Scott enters into a marriage of convenience with a Bristol trader. She is soon after presented with a shipload of African slaves and instructed to school them in English and domestic duties so that they may be sold as servants to wealthy English households. With time, Frances begins to doubt the common assertion of the time that the slaves are animals and cannot be educated. One in particular, Mehuru, challenges everything she has been taught about the slave trade. Gregory’s prose is once again breathtaking and meticulous. Unfortunately, the story itself was lacking in some areas. Frances is not much of a heroine; she isn't particularly likable and never seems to have an opinion of her own. I wasn't convinced of Frances’ and Mehuru’s love, having observed them seemingly going from distaste to affection with nothing in between. Mehuru was by far the most interesting character, and I regret that we are not allowed to get to know him better. The most entertaining parts of the story involved his acclimatization to English society. Amusing are the scenes in which he is demonstrated comparing inferior aspects of English culture to those of his homeland (and the reader is forced to agree), and his descriptions of how ghastly the pale English people look. My favorite quote: “She is a white woman,” he said, trying to reassure himself, discounting his insight. “They all look sick to me.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I really enjoyed this read. This is a story that takes place in Bristol in the year 1787 and tells of the trade enterprises of the shipping industry, in particular the slave trade...which was very popular and profitable.....It is the story of a small time Trader Josiah Cole and his arranged marriage to Francis Scott. She brings a bit of money and a name to him which allows him to move up in the social circles. In return he gives her slaves and she is to teach them English and to be obedient and I really enjoyed this read. This is a story that takes place in Bristol in the year 1787 and tells of the trade enterprises of the shipping industry, in particular the slave trade...which was very popular and profitable.....It is the story of a small time Trader Josiah Cole and his arranged marriage to Francis Scott. She brings a bit of money and a name to him which allows him to move up in the social circles. In return he gives her slaves and she is to teach them English and to be obedient and learn to serve.....thus getting them ready to sell to other white people. It is also the story of a man from Africa named Mehuru, who is stolen away by the white people and forced aboard a ship that is owned by Josiah Cole and is bound to Bristol and once there, Mehuru, Josiah and Francis lives become irrevocably and tragically entertwined.... It was a very moving story, historically correct and one could easily imagine being on the docks in Bristol, in the squalid little homes that lined the dock, or the more affluent homes above or indeed in the bottom of the ship with the slaves. The book bothered me in the respect of how we as human beings treated other human beings....considering them less than a human, and treating them worse than we would treat animals. I am glad I did not live during this time period, but I read the paper and watch the news every day, and I am sad to say...I do not think we have come as far as we would like to think we have in that regard.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chanta Rand

    Overall, I enjoyed it. Historical romance is my absolute favorite subject to read, and Philipa Gregory is the bomb when it comes to weaving the historical backdrop with a sweet romance. I learned a lot about the slave trade in England, which we don't hear too much about - since the Trans Atlantic slave trade of America is more heavily focused on than England's slave trade. I liked the fact that (like Roots) this story chronicled the journey of Mehru from Africa to his orderal on the ship and to h Overall, I enjoyed it. Historical romance is my absolute favorite subject to read, and Philipa Gregory is the bomb when it comes to weaving the historical backdrop with a sweet romance. I learned a lot about the slave trade in England, which we don't hear too much about - since the Trans Atlantic slave trade of America is more heavily focused on than England's slave trade. I liked the fact that (like Roots) this story chronicled the journey of Mehru from Africa to his orderal on the ship and to his final destination in Bristol, England. What I didn't like was that Mehru, who used to be a man of great importance in Africa, so easily falls in love with Frances - his white slaveowner, who wasn't always sympathetic or considerate to her slaves when they first arrived. The way he fell fast and hard seemed unrealistic. The prevailing theme that emerged was that even the most educated black man stolen from his home in Africa is enamored with the charms of a white woman - one who considers him her property. I also didn't like the fact that Frances was weak-minded and constantly let her husband and sister-in-law take advantage of her. But the book does highlight the fact that many Europeans were descended from the African slaves when England briefly allowed slavery in that country. Many of the descendants now have blonde hair and blue eyes - nobody would guess their true lineage.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Allison Fifer

    Disappointing, especially because I have loved the other Philippa Gregory books that I've read. Summary: Frances, an upper society girl, accepts a loveless marriage because Josiah is the only one offering to marry her. Josiah and his sister, Sarah, are slave merchants who struggle to rise in society through trade. Mehru, a priest in his African country, is captured and enslaved by Josiah and Frances. Frances and Mehru fall in love. Josiah gets into some questionable trades. Spoilers: I felt like Disappointing, especially because I have loved the other Philippa Gregory books that I've read. Summary: Frances, an upper society girl, accepts a loveless marriage because Josiah is the only one offering to marry her. Josiah and his sister, Sarah, are slave merchants who struggle to rise in society through trade. Mehru, a priest in his African country, is captured and enslaved by Josiah and Frances. Frances and Mehru fall in love. Josiah gets into some questionable trades. Spoilers: I felt like Frances and Mehru falling in love was entirely unrealistic. It was apparently love at first sight, which is completely implausible. Frances was accustomed to slaves and was only slightly upset when two of them died, yet managed to fall in love with one? Mehru, a leader in his own country, managed to fall in love with the women who owned him, permitted him to be whipped, and eventually agrees to sell him. Only made it through 60 percent of the book because I found that match so unbelievable. It was not at all well developed, just seemed to appear. Additionally, Sarah and Josiah were too one dimensional to be likeable characters. Detracted from the story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stacie (MagicOfBooks)

    I will also do a video review here at my channel: http://www.youtube.com/magicofbooks Philippa Gregory's "A Respectable Trade" takes us to 1787 Bristol, England, a city that is booming because of the slave trade and power beckons to those who dare to take risks. Josiah Cole is a small trader, but he needs capital and connections to further establish himself. Josiah marries Frances Scott, a woman of wealth and influence, and Josiah finds his circumstances much changed. Frances is ignorant when it I will also do a video review here at my channel: http://www.youtube.com/magicofbooks Philippa Gregory's "A Respectable Trade" takes us to 1787 Bristol, England, a city that is booming because of the slave trade and power beckons to those who dare to take risks. Josiah Cole is a small trader, but he needs capital and connections to further establish himself. Josiah marries Frances Scott, a woman of wealth and influence, and Josiah finds his circumstances much changed. Frances is ignorant when it comes to trade and money, but she knows how to socialize and get what she wants. Into Frances' world comes Mehuru, a man who becomes a slave in her household, but he was once a priest in Africa. Frances and Mehuru comes from different backgrounds, different social statuses, but they both crave love and liberty, and they believe they have found that with each other and desire nothing more than to be with one another despite their circumstances. Definitely a different book by Philippa Gregory. I'm so used to reading her books about the Plantagenets and the Tudors that I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book. I ending up really enjoying "A Respectable Trade" and was thoroughly surprised by it. Talking about the slave trade is a difficult topic, but I think Philippa Gregory handled the subject matter appropriately and believably. She didn't sugar coat the slave trade. Even with the main white characters, they are supporters of the slave trade, but she depicts them very believably that you do not agree with what they are doing, but you totally understand why they are doing it. She essentially is showing all the various different points of view when it comes to the slave trade: those who were slaves, those who were against the trade, those who were the cruel slave owners, and those (like Frances and Josiah) who did it more out of necessity because they had to. Philippa Gregory shows all sides while keeping it balanced, explaining the mechanics of the trade in the 1700s and why people entered into it, even when they had their doubts. This does make for an interesting set of characters. I think one of the best characters is Mehuru. He was a priest in Africa, but he gets captured and taken to England, enduring a horrific journey over sea. Mehuru is a quick learner though. He learns English fairly quick and he learns to adapt, but keeps in mind the day he can either escape or earn his freedom. He initially hates his owners, obviously and with good reason. Josiah and his sister Sarah see the slave trade as a necessity, something they need to do in order to further advance themselves in society and develop their own wealth. It's all strictly about business and they really have no care where the slaves come from, don't see them as human, and see any loss of life as inevitable, that a slave can easily be replaced. Then there is Frances who is absolutely ignorant when it comes to the slave trade and just trade in general. She is initially of the same frame of mind as her husband and sister-in-law, that the trade is a necessity, something to push their social standing. Frances and Mehuru see each other as "other," something without feeling and understanding, but over the course of the novel, Frances and Mehuru realize they are starting to fall in love with one another. They realize they are both slaves to Josiah's trade and ambitions and what they really want is to run away together. Just to get into some of Philippa Gregory's writing and what I liked and didn't like: as always, Philippa Gregory is a natural storyteller. People always hate on her for whatever reason, but I've always appreciated her talent and ability to tell a good story, even when controversial. You can see the hard work and research she put into this particular novel. I do think the book has a few ups and downs. I think the whole first chunk of the book dealing with Mehuru getting captured, his overseas journey, and Frances training the slaves to learn English were some of the best parts. Philippa Gregory captures the terror and fear of Mehuru and the uncertainty and ignorance of Frances perfectly. One of my biggest issues (not really a complaint), was the speedy romance between Mehuru and Frances. They don't like each other initially. Like I mentioned earlier, they see each other as "other" and lacking of feeling, but then out of nowhere they are attracted to each other. To me, there didn't seem to be a natural progression to their romance. If I read through the novel correctly, I think the events of the novel take place in under two years. It didn't seem enough time for the two of them to form the relationship that they do in a believable manner. Seriously, one chapter they can't stand each other and then you flip the page and they have a sex scene. I think it would have been better to build up the curiosity a bit further, build up the sexual tension. I think the sexual tension is what was lacking for me as a reader because they succumb to their feelings out of nowhere. And this was really my only issue with the novel. Everything else I found fascinating and intriguing. I liked reading the politics of the slave trade, the politics of being a trader during this time, seeing the people who were for and against the trade and their reasoning. Overall, a well done novel by Philippa Gregory. It you're a fan of her already, I highly recommend it. If you're up in the air about her, then I suggest reading more reviews and seeing if the book is something you'd like. Obviously take caution with the subject matter. As I said, Philippa Gregory doesn't sugar coat the slave trade. The oversea voyage was horrific. There is a rape scene of an African woman. There are deaths. There are beatings. Keep in mind what you as a mature reader can handle when it comes to this subject matter.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    An interesting view of the slave trade in 18th century England. However, not as impressive as Philippa Gregory's other works. The characters do not seem fully developed and the flow is choppy. It's somewhat unbelievable that Mehuru would go from hating Frances to loving her in such a short time - I felt this needed to develop more slowly and instead was rushed along. In addition, there were a few loose ends (although minor) that were not tied up by the end. Still, would recommend reading if you' An interesting view of the slave trade in 18th century England. However, not as impressive as Philippa Gregory's other works. The characters do not seem fully developed and the flow is choppy. It's somewhat unbelievable that Mehuru would go from hating Frances to loving her in such a short time - I felt this needed to develop more slowly and instead was rushed along. In addition, there were a few loose ends (although minor) that were not tied up by the end. Still, would recommend reading if you're a fan of Gregory.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Rumney

    This is the first Gregory novel I've read outside her Tudor and Plantagenet canons. In these the action is usually from the view point in the first person. A Respectable Trade is in the third person but still uses letters and correspondence to move the action forward in time. Frances a penniless aristocrat accepts Josiah Cole's marriage proposal as a way of escaping her perilous financial situation. The benefit for Josiah is to give credence to his business expansion into other areas rather than This is the first Gregory novel I've read outside her Tudor and Plantagenet canons. In these the action is usually from the view point in the first person. A Respectable Trade is in the third person but still uses letters and correspondence to move the action forward in time. Frances a penniless aristocrat accepts Josiah Cole's marriage proposal as a way of escaping her perilous financial situation. The benefit for Josiah is to give credence to his business expansion into other areas rather than the slave trade and elevation in 18th century Bristol Society. Frances's role is to educate slaves so they can to be sold to rich household and she meets Mehuru an African priest captured into the Slave Trade. The story line I found gripping if at times a little unrealistic but Gregory keeps the interest up by continually making it more difficult for the characters. I was a little disappointed with the ending in that it ends on a major life changing event for Mehuru and I would like to have known what happens to him.

  21. 5 out of 5

    BookGypsy

    Reading this again for Black History Month.Very moving read. One of my favorite authors. If you like historical fiction you'll like this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liliana Pinto

    Philippa Gregory foi dada a conhecer aos leitores de todo o mundo depois de escrever os livros da série Tudor e da Guerra dos Primos. "Um Comércio Respeitável" é completamente diferente das outros livros. Em tudo. O único ponto que liga estes livros é o país. Este é um livro dificil de se comentar. Tem uma enorme carga emocional e personagens fortes (principalmente os escravos) que nos prendem ao livro do princípio ao fim. Mehuru é um sacerdote africano que, durante uma missão pelo seu reino (Ioru Philippa Gregory foi dada a conhecer aos leitores de todo o mundo depois de escrever os livros da série Tudor e da Guerra dos Primos. "Um Comércio Respeitável" é completamente diferente das outros livros. Em tudo. O único ponto que liga estes livros é o país. Este é um livro dificil de se comentar. Tem uma enorme carga emocional e personagens fortes (principalmente os escravos) que nos prendem ao livro do princípio ao fim. Mehuru é um sacerdote africano que, durante uma missão pelo seu reino (Ioruba) e juntamente com o seu criado Siko, é raptado pelos negreiros ingleses e atirado para um navio para ser vendido como escravo em Inglaterra. E é quando chega a Inglaterra que a sua vida se cruza com a vida de Frances. Frances é uma mulher timida e discreta que aceitou casar com um comerciante a troco do seu dote. Depois de perder a sua mãe e, um ano depois, o seu pai, Frances vai viver com o seu tio Scott e com a sua tia. Quando Josiah envia o seu pedido de casamento, Frances sabe que é a única maneira de escapar da sua vida de tristezas e angústias. Quando o seu marido lhe diz que vai ter de ensinar inglês aos escravos que ele comprou, conhece Mehuru e, ao longo do tempo, apaixonasse. Um amor proibido e impossível. A escrita é tão envolvente que, em certos momentos, parece que estamos dentro da história com a Frances, o Mehuru, a Sarah, o Josiah, etc. É um livro triste, sem nunca existir uma verdadeira felicidade. Em 85% do livro senti-me depressiva e com vontade de matar umas quantas personagens. A diferença de classes está bem caracterizada, onde são feitas coisas que atualmente não passam pela cabeça de ninguém. Até os "novos ricos" são renegados e humilhados. Na minha opinião a personagem mais bem formada deste livro é o Mehuru. É inteligente, gentil, é um líder. Tenho de confessar que ao longo do livro me fui apaixonando por ele e só queria que ele conseguisse fugir e que deixasse para trás aquele amor proibido que o podia levar à morte. Frances, na minha opinião, é uma personagem fraca. Nunca conseguiu levantar a voz, nunca conseguiu proteger os "seus" escravos, nunca conseguiu dizer "NÃO!". Eu sei que antigamente as mulheres eram um adereço: para ser visto, mas não ouvido. Mas não a consigo entender. Mesmo. Mas penso que a sua atitude final conseguiu limpar algumas das suas falhas anteriores. Sarah é uma mulher amargurada com vida, mas também com os pés bem assentes na terra. Tenho pena que ela nunca se tenha entendido com Frances. Podiam ter sido o apoio uma da outra. Josiah é o exemplo perfeito de que a ambição tem limites. Ele era um homem bom, um homem muito bom para os padrões daquela época. Mas queria sempre mais, mais e mais. E isso foi a sua morte. Gostaria de ler a continuação deste livro para saber o que aconteceu com algumas personagens, e se outras irão ser castigadas pela sua mesquinhez e maldade. É um livro maravilhoso e que me deixou emocinalmente devastada. Recomendo.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is, rightfully, an angry book that uncovers the British slave-trade and the inhumanities upon which empire is built. Gregory is clearly incensed, both politically and personally, about this hidden history and uncovers the ignorance and wilful self-deceit which underpins any kind of prejudice, whether racial, sexual, gendered etc. However I felt that her very anger made this a very unsubtle book, unsophisticated precisely because of its polemic and didactic stance. Characters became represent This is, rightfully, an angry book that uncovers the British slave-trade and the inhumanities upon which empire is built. Gregory is clearly incensed, both politically and personally, about this hidden history and uncovers the ignorance and wilful self-deceit which underpins any kind of prejudice, whether racial, sexual, gendered etc. However I felt that her very anger made this a very unsubtle book, unsophisticated precisely because of its polemic and didactic stance. Characters became representatives of political view-points: the ambitious lower-middle class tradesman determined to rise socially; his bitter and inhumane sister; the wife sold into a different type of slavery and yet unwilling to set herself free, and the noble, good, humane black slaves... ... and here is the crux of the problem: Gregory allows herself to fall into the trap of inverting and so sustaining the racial differences that allow slavery in the first place: while the `baddies' see the Africans as animals, she portrays them as saints. They are all completely noble, intelligent, loving, nurturing, unselfish, with an inbuilt sense of music and dance and an instinctive feeling for the earth and nature - the opposite of most of the white characters. And so rather than breaking down barriers and finding a common humanity between both groups where people are a mix of good and bad, selfish and giving regardless of their skin colour, Gregory insidiously (and I would guess unintentionally) maintains the difference, sustaining the `us' and `them', even if `we' are on the sides of the slaves. This is a flaw in other novels I have read about slavery: Diana Norman's A Catch of Consequence, and Jane Stevenson's Astraea trilogy come to mind. By making the black characters completely morally and ethically `white', the structures of racial difference are not collapsed but actively re-built and maintained. By making the black characters completely `other' (and the instance of Mehuru's clairvoyance is a good example), they are still marginalised, still `orientalised' (in Edward Said's words), and still not like `us' (whoever `we' might be...) So, overall, this is a brave novel, heartfelt and with good intentions, but ultimately, for me, an unsettling one in ways the author probably didn't intend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    One of Philippa Gregory's early books and one that doesn't fail to deliver. The book is set in 18th century Bristol, based on the slave trade. Knowing Bristol quite well and understanding it's darker history, this book helped my knowledge of the slave trade develop further. In part it is a harrowing read. Young women, children and men forced to work overseas and put on ships that were only meant to hold 300 slaves, but were instead filled to the rafters with up 500 slaves. Children and mothers c One of Philippa Gregory's early books and one that doesn't fail to deliver. The book is set in 18th century Bristol, based on the slave trade. Knowing Bristol quite well and understanding it's darker history, this book helped my knowledge of the slave trade develop further. In part it is a harrowing read. Young women, children and men forced to work overseas and put on ships that were only meant to hold 300 slaves, but were instead filled to the rafters with up 500 slaves. Children and mothers chained together, men on the top deck being exposed to all kinds of weather to get to Africa or the W.Indies. Frances' dowry to Josiah Cole, comes in the form of slaves. Those who were willing to work, endless hours as servants to Josiah and his cruel friends. One scenario, involves the raping of a slave woman, from one of Josiah's friends. Josiah Cole is a man with serious debts and dangerous desires. Money is his motivator and his willingness to purchase and make profit, spirals out of control. He has three trade ships already in function, trying to compete with the Liverpool port of trade, whose access to the high seas was easier. Cole purchases the Hot Well Spa, hoping that it will make him more money to compensate towards his debtors. Unfortunately this does not plan out at all well and he finds his friends, are royally stabbing him in the back. Frances' is trains the slaves to speak English and to go about household servant based chores. Her relationship with one servant grows particularly close. Mr Cole, never consummated his marriage to Josiah. They weren't in love. It was a marriage of financial convenience, from one Bath family to a neighbouring Bristolian family. Josiah falls in love with Mehuru (a black slave) from Africa. Mehuru is an intelligent man who can already speak four other languages and thought that most white men spoke Portuguese (thanks to the colonies). He woes Frances and before long, the passion embers are ignited and they have an ongoing affair. Without giving too much away, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very difficult to put down. It is a book forwarded to me by the lovely Nu-Knees from Yorkshire (via the Book Crossing forum), thank you! I am also looking forward to reading more early P.Gregory work, aside from the Tudor saga books of more recent years.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tara Chevrestt

    I can see this being a "controversial" book. It is a historical novel about a "touchy" subject: slavery. I am impressed that Philippa Gregory tackled this. I don't believe that the bad parts of history should be forgotten and swept under the rug so thumbs up to her for writing this. It is a pleasant change from her usual novels about frivolous and sometimes stupid queens of England. In this novel, Frances Scott is a well to do, but lonely woman who marries Josiah, a slave trader. It is a marriag I can see this being a "controversial" book. It is a historical novel about a "touchy" subject: slavery. I am impressed that Philippa Gregory tackled this. I don't believe that the bad parts of history should be forgotten and swept under the rug so thumbs up to her for writing this. It is a pleasant change from her usual novels about frivolous and sometimes stupid queens of England. In this novel, Frances Scott is a well to do, but lonely woman who marries Josiah, a slave trader. It is a marriage of convenience. She has the name and connections, he has the power to put a roof over her head. Basically, in exchange for a fancy house, she must train slaves Josiah imports to be domestic servants. She never counts on falling in love with one. Mehuru was a priest and a nobleman in his native Africa and as he comes to terms with his new situation in life, he shows readers what slaverly was like in 1700s England. Thru his eyes, the cruelty, the sorry living conditions, and the frustrations of being another's property is unveiled. I found Mehuru to be a fascinating character. I loved hearing his story and I somewhat fell in love with him myself. My problem was Frances. Her character changes page to page. One minute she is declaring Mehuru her slave and demanding his name be changed to Cicero and the next she is asking him for his friendship. Her character is vague and contradictory. Also, tho I fell in love with Mehuru myself, the book never makes it clear why Frances does. What exactly made HER fall for him? Besides having a man at her beck and call, what drew her to him? Tho their love is very strong in the end, the beginnings of this love affair went unexplained. On both parts. What Mehuru sees in Frances is an even greater mystery. Also, I grew weary of Josiah's constant money making schemes and his sister, Sarah's griping about his money making schemes. The ending... I seen it coming but it was still very exciting. Four stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ria

    When Frances Scott agrees out of desperation to marry Josiah Cole shipping trader she thought her life would be moving upwards from having to rely on the charity of family after her parents died, with the only other option open to her is governess posts. But what she doesn't know is that Josiah is in his fever to land a rich wife and progress in trade is dealing in uninsured trips to "acquire" slaves. When first confronted with his initial consignment of "ignorant" slaves for her to train up and t When Frances Scott agrees out of desperation to marry Josiah Cole shipping trader she thought her life would be moving upwards from having to rely on the charity of family after her parents died, with the only other option open to her is governess posts. But what she doesn't know is that Josiah is in his fever to land a rich wife and progress in trade is dealing in uninsured trips to "acquire" slaves. When first confronted with his initial consignment of "ignorant" slaves for her to train up and teach in English ways ready for sale to her affluent friends she is at the start enthusiastic but when she comes to realise the harsh reality of the conditions they have suffered on the voyage and continue to suffer at the English traders hands, rape, beatings, starvation and other degrading tortures her eyes are finally opened to brutalities of the trade but stuck in a loveless marriage where she is dependent on Josiah and his carping sister Sarah for everything including the food she eats and the clothes on her back she is powerless to help either herself or the slaves. Then one day she finds her growing friendship of her "pupils" developing into something more when she falls in love with the enigmatic yet charming Mehuru. How can Frances ever escape the shackles of her empty marriage and how would her burgeoning relationship with a man of caste be viewed upon in the circles she now moves in? Add to that Frances' failing health and the money worries of the scheming Josiah as he overreaches himself in more and more schemes to make money their outwardly happy world looks set to collapse. A riveting read by one of the Queens of the historical novel, Philippa Gregory, a wealth of detail and vividly drawn characters and situations this is a must read for her fans and an eye opener to those not versed in the subject content of the slave trade.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Redfox5

    When I pick up a book by Philippa Gregory, I know before I even start that there is a good chance it's going to be a five star read. A Respectable Trade was no exception. One of those books you pick up and just can't put down. Set in Bristol 1787, we get the story of two very different people. Mehuru, a slave taken far from home and Frances a tradesman's wife. Mehuru's journey to England was very emotional, so many deaths, the way they were treated. Awful. The way Died Of Shame was raped by Si When I pick up a book by Philippa Gregory, I know before I even start that there is a good chance it's going to be a five star read. A Respectable Trade was no exception. One of those books you pick up and just can't put down. Set in Bristol 1787, we get the story of two very different people. Mehuru, a slave taken far from home and Frances a tradesman's wife. Mehuru's journey to England was very emotional, so many deaths, the way they were treated. Awful. The way Died Of Shame was raped by Sir Charles. And yet I couldn't help liking Frances and her husband, even though they were completely responsible. Which I suppose is the power of Gregory. I even ended up liking Sarah. I thought she was cold fish at first but when I saw her fear of poverty, I understood her better. I don't like paying with credit either. I loved when Mehuru and the rest of the slaves become friends with cook and she starts to see them differently. As people, not trade. The ending was sad but not unrealistic. It kind of had to end that way. I like to think they all found a new happy way to live. I really must get round to reading the rest of her books. I've read all the Tudors ones and even though I loved them, I've not made much of an effort to fin the others. They are all now going on my wishlist. I need to read more books like this!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I was extremely disappointed in the pace of this novel and the slipshod character development. Gregory had ample opportunity to really get into the meat of the era, yet fell short in so many ways. The ending left me feeling that the main character, Frances, escaped making a life changing decision or even facing her own demons. The reasons for Mehuru's devotion were sketchy at best. Sarah's one-dimensional character was tiresome and Josiah came across as nothing more than a careless merchant who I was extremely disappointed in the pace of this novel and the slipshod character development. Gregory had ample opportunity to really get into the meat of the era, yet fell short in so many ways. The ending left me feeling that the main character, Frances, escaped making a life changing decision or even facing her own demons. The reasons for Mehuru's devotion were sketchy at best. Sarah's one-dimensional character was tiresome and Josiah came across as nothing more than a careless merchant who sought approval from everyone - very unlike the seasoned businessman that the author tried to portray. As I came to realize that this book wouldn't go anywhere satisfying (only about 1/3 of the way in), I stubbornly continued reading, hoping that it would get better. It did not. Pity, as The Other Boleyn Girl was pretty good. Perhaps I should try for two out of three and read another book of hers. But not yet.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy John

    It is a fascinating love story of a blue collared white women who fell in love with a very important african man. One who was once in great power captured and forced to work as a slave to white men. The journey this man took from africa to the america's alone was enough to make me cry at the torment, and sacrifices some mothers had to make in order to save their children from living a life of slavery. This story starts when slavery was just taking root, and becoming a popular trade in the americ It is a fascinating love story of a blue collared white women who fell in love with a very important african man. One who was once in great power captured and forced to work as a slave to white men. The journey this man took from africa to the america's alone was enough to make me cry at the torment, and sacrifices some mothers had to make in order to save their children from living a life of slavery. This story starts when slavery was just taking root, and becoming a popular trade in the america's. You won't find such hardship, and truth in any history book on this subject. It makes you stop and think of the madness that took place back when slavery was enforced. African's were traded as commodities, and it bring tears to my eyes that such brutality could ever occur. She adds a great love story that brings the smallest bit of hope in a time of great suffering.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shahrun

    I had a hard time with this book - it glued it's self to my hands and my thoughts! I would've read it in one sitting if my life allowed me. I love the way Phillippa Gregory's evocative writing transports the reader back in time to live with the characters being read about! This book especially took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride through the cruel (Not At All) Respectable trade. It left me wondering how much truth was in the book and made me want to do some research of my own. So, imagine I had a hard time with this book - it glued it's self to my hands and my thoughts! I would've read it in one sitting if my life allowed me. I love the way Phillippa Gregory's evocative writing transports the reader back in time to live with the characters being read about! This book especially took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride through the cruel (Not At All) Respectable trade. It left me wondering how much truth was in the book and made me want to do some research of my own. So, imagine my delight with the Author's Note at the end! I am going to look out for the 3 books she recommends for further reading!

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