Saturday, May 8, 2010
Trade Wind by M. M. Kaye
"The year is 1859 and Hero Hollis, beautiful and headstrong niece of the American Consul, arrives in Zanzibar. It is an earthly paradise; it is also the last outpost of the slave trade. A passionate opponent of slavery, Hero is swept into a turmoil of royal intrigue, abduction, piracy, smuggling, and a virulent cholera epidemic. There in Zanzibar, the most cruelly beautiful island of the southern seas, she must choose her love and unravel her destiny." (from Goodreads)
Trade Wind was an amazing book that was absolutely impossible to put down! I have never read anything by M. M. Kaye prior to this, but I've already added The Far Pavilions to my "read now" list. I discovered her books when I saw Lauren Willig's (The Pink Carnation author) recommended reading list and thought I would give them a try. (Some are out of print -- I started Trade Wind with a library book, but quickly found a used paperback copy as I thought it was a keeper.)
I enjoy reading novels with lush, exotic settings and adventures at sea, and this is what you'll get, and a whole lot more, with Trade Wind. Kaye's writing is rich in detail and historical background, and the storylines have depth and breadth and scope --- lots of food for thought here as the reader travels with Hero Athena Hollis, an idealistic American, to the island of Zanzibar in the 1850's.
This tropical paradise is a study in contrasts: it is an exotic paradise of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and clove trees....on the other hand, there is filth, squalor, and disease. The clash of eastern and western cultures and ideas is interesting and thought-provoking, and while there is no way to justify slavery, Hero comes to realize that her noble but naive mission of attempting to put an end to inhumane practices is not as simple as she had supposed. In addition to the African slave trade, Hero learns that the plight of women in the Sultan's world is a form of slavery and difficult for her to accept. Does an outsider have the right to come into another's culture and impose their beliefs and way of living? Under what conditions is it justified?
Hero's relationship with the notorious slave trader and confidante of the Sultan, Captain Rory Frost, is also an intriguing and controversial part of the book. I can't discuss too much detail as it is a major spoiler, but the reader gradually learns more about the captain's background and motivations, and it's up the reader to decide whether to be sympathetic or not.
An epic adventure....at times poignant....highly recommended!
Title: Trade Wind
Author: M. M. Kaye
genre: historical fiction