4 stars for this fictionalised account of the life of Eliza Lucas (1722-1793), who was left at the age of sixteen to look after the family’s plantations in South Carolina on her father’s return to Antigua.
Eliza Lucas appears to have been spirited and ambitious in an age and society that decried such traits in young women: in order to improve her family’s financial security, she attempted various agricultural experiments including the growing of tropical indigo plants for lucrative indigo dye. Her seasons-long battle to succeed is described in detail, including the real-life sabotage of the dyeing process that took place. We learn of Eliza’s life and hopes, and this novel also attempts to show the involvement of slaves in indigo-production – it was slaves who had expertise and knowledge of indigo, and Eliza relied upon their skill. The book also chronicles Eliza’s decision to teach slaves to read. We learn a great deal about Eliza Lucas from this novel, which quotes excerpts of her letters and prayers, and I am now keen to find out more by reading her published letterbook.
I received this book free from NetGalley and the publisher, Blackstone Publishing. UK publication date: 3 October 2017.