Saturday 19 January 2013

Seeking Eden by Ann Turnbull review by Lynda Waterhouse

This is the third book in Ann’s Quaker trilogy of which No Shame No fear and Forged in the Fire precede it but like all good stories it can stand alone.
This novel focuses on Josiah, the rebellious teenage son of Will and Susanna. It begins in London in 1685. Jos has turned his back on the family business of bookselling and printing preferring to work as a butcher in the Shambles. He is conflicted about his religious beliefs and has an uncomfortable relationship with his father.
 The family are planning on leaving for the new world, they receive a letter from a family friend: ‘This new colony of Pennsylvania will be a haven for many people. We have come seeking Eden, and believe we will find it here.’ They are excited to take part in William Penn’s holy experiment
Josiah is relieved to go as it will free his family from persecution and he would not have to ‘feign indifference’ about his Quaker faith.
As the family sail towards freedom another ship follows in their wake and on it is Jokpa, an African boy who along with three hundred others has just lost his freedom. His name is changed to Anthony and he is sold to a Quaker family in Barbados.
Jos finds himself apprenticed to a Quaker merchant, George Bainbrigg. He finds the work stimulating and finds himself falling for Bainbrigg’s daughter, Katharine.
Jokpa too finds love with Miata.
When Anthony and Jos’s paths collide in Barbados the story really catches fire. I was genuinely shocked to discover that in the seventeenth century Quakers were involved in the slave trade. Their insistence of taking their slaves with them to the meeting house was reckless and dangerous. Only Jos’ quick thinking saves Anthony from being arrested.
The story is written with clarity and a pace that slowly builds and captivates. You have to read on to find out what happens to the characters. There is a strong sense of time and place. The beautiful prose coils around your heart and the themes of justice and conscience linger long after you have finished reading.
Seeking Eden is published by Walker Books



Penny Dolan said...

Sounds a strong historical novel for teens, Lynda, with lots of interest - although I am now puzzled about why taking the slaves to the Meeting House was dangerous and reckless. Perhaps I'll just have to read Seeking Eden to find out?

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