An epic mystery that takes place on a sugar plantation on the lush island of Barbados in the 1800s was a somewhat unexpected pleasure when it came to summer reading.
It’s 1854, and Emily Dawson is the daughter of a poor minister and his wife (who has devoted her life to fighting for the end of slavery). Being the poor relations, it was always expected that when her much-loved grandfather passed away, the family’s shipping business — which began in Barbados — would go to her cousin Adam. What wasn’t expected is that her grandfather would leave her the title to Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados.
Emily accompanies her cousin Adam and his wife to Barbados where she learns that Peverills is nothing but a crumbling burnt-down building, having been destroyed by a fire in 1816 by frustrated and angry slaves. What could her grandfather have been thinking?
Emily decides to stick it out and do some detective work of her own to try and find out her grandfather’s motives. What she, working alongside a black physician who was formerly a slave, discovers is a shocking secret that changes the way she looks at her life.
The Summer Country, by Laura Willig, is set against such a beautiful background that is in sharp contrast to the ugliness of slavery and the pretentions of the wealthy landowners. It seems not a whole lot changed between 1816 and 1854.
I enjoyed this novel a lot, admittedly largely because of its setting. Still, Willig knows how to spin a yarn and create unforgettable characters. It was a really good summer read.