Delighted to welcome Apple Gidley to the Cafe and Bookstore with her books. I am featuring Fireburn, the first of her novels set in the 1870s on the Danish owned island of St. Croix.
About the book
The Danish-owned island of 1870s Saint Croix vibrates with passion and tension as Anna Clausen, a young Anglo-Danish woman, returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death. Her heart sinks at what she finds on arrival. Her father is ailing and desolate and her beloved plantation, Anna’s Fancy, which has been in the Clausen family for three generations, is in shambles.
The unwelcome lust of one man and forbidden love for another makes Anna’s return to Saint Croix even more turbulent. Despite the decline in the sugar industry she is determined to retain Anna’s Fancy but must first win the trust of her field workers, of Sampson the foreman, and the grudging respect of Emiline the cook and local weed woman.
Fireburn tells of the horrors of a little-known, bloody period of Caribbean history. Anna weathers personal heartache as she challenges the conventions of the day, the hostility of the predominantly male landowners and survives the worker rebellion of 1878, 30 years after Emancipation.
Rich in description, Fireburn is a well-researched novel that shines a light on a historic period in Saint Croix that has received little attention in literature until now. Gillian Royes, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay
One of the reviews for Fireburn
As a resident of St Croix, I may be biased here. But I am also a Crucian history buff, who appreciates the attention given to the cultural and historical details.
Fireburn has always been romanticized here. It was a pivotal point between Danish emancipation and transfer to US ownership, which forced plantation owners to acknowledge that they were still, in effect, treating freed slaves as an owned class, without much freedom at all. Something had to give, and Fireburn was it. What stands out in this book, that’s rarely covered in others, was the complexity that it not only involved black vs white, but that blacks also turned on those who did not agree with the uprising, and black landowners were not untouched. That’s a hard pill to swallow, so it often gets buried.
This book should be commended in its attention to the details of the island. From its descriptions of the flora and fauna to the destruction of droughts and hurricanes, it was pretty much spot on. It was wise to incorporate the viewpoints of land owner, white housekeeper newbie, and local Crucian cook, among others, because it clearly showed the cultural differences and abilities obtained from the diverse backgrounds. Some readers may find the Crucian dialect a bit difficult, and maybe distracting. But stick with it. There’s a pattern to it, and It falls into place. Some of that dialect still exists today.
As for historical accuracy, this meshes with just about everything I’ve read and seen. The sugar production is spot on, right down to the frightening practice of keeping the knife on hand at the mill grinder for expedient amputation when arms got caught in the rollers. About the only historical inaccuracy I noted was the reference to the 1867 hurricane and tidal wave that washed the ship, USS Monongahela, ashore which seemed to conflate these two occurrences. The San Narciso hurricane and the earthquake that caused the tsunami were weeks apart. Thankfully, that’s irrelevant to the storyline.
While Anna comes across sometimes as maybe a bit too idealistic for her time, she’s still believable because her character is treated in much depth, flaws and all. And hey, it’s a lovely romance first and foremost. .Looking forward to reading Transfer.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Also by Apple Gidley
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Apple: Goodreads
About Apple Gidley
A transient life has seen Anglo-Australian Apple Gidley live in countries as diverse as Papua New Guinea and Thailand, Equatorial Guinea and the USA, and another eight in between. Her memoir, Expat Life Slice by Slice tells of the highs and lows of that nomadic life – one she wouldn’t trade for all the proverbial tea in one of the places she hasn’t lived, China.
Gidley’s roles have been varied – editor, intercultural trainer for multi-national corporations, Her Britannic Majesty’s Honorary Consul to Equatorial Guinea, amongst others. She started writing full time twelve years ago.
Gidley writes a regular blog, A Broad View, and has two published novels, Fireburn and Transfer, which are set on St Croix, and she has stories published in various anthologies and is working on a book of short stories. A novel, set in 1950’s Malaya is currently with agents and she is now working on another historical novel set in Poland and India.
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