Bodley Head

In August 1823, Quamina Gladstone and his son Jack led an uprising in the British sugar colony of Demerara where they were held as slaves. The men believed that the British parliament had voted to abolish slavery and that this was being concealed from them. The colonists quashed the rebellion with firepower, torture, and execution. Something had happened in Britain’s parliament: the Anti-Slavery Society’s Thomas Buxton had given a speech, proposing gradual reform. Yet it would take another decade, and much political upheaval, for the British parliament to abolish slavery. Michael Taylor’s book is set during these ten long years.

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On 7 December 1941, Japan bombed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that it was a date that would ‘live in infamy’. Those who heard his radio broadcast knew that the United States would be drawn into the war that had engulfed Europe and the Middle East ...

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A few intellectually superior women exist, conceded nineteenth-century anthropologist Gustav Le Bon, but ‘they are as exceptional as the birth of any monstrosity, as, for example, of a gorilla with two heads’. Armed with cephalometers, scales, and birdseed for measuring skull volumes ...

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In 2017, Oskar Eustis directed the Public Theater production of Julius Caesar – a play that pivots on the assassination of a political leader – in Central Park with a lead actor who bore an unmistakable likeness to the forty-fifth president of the United States. The conservative backlash was swift and powerful ...

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Jumbo by Gabrielle Lord

by
October 1986, no. 85

Gabrielle Lord’s novels – Fortress, Tooth and Claw and now, Jumbo, are all topical, readable, and (I expect) highly marketable. Lord is a scriptwriter as well as a novelist and each of these books seems like a transit point between a great idea and the kind of film which makes you lean forward in your seat and temporarily abandon regular breathing. There is, however, much to be said for them, as novels. They are thrillers, but they are not merely escapist. The plots dislocate everyday events in a way which questions the validity of what passes as socially acceptable. On the other hand, pace, suspense, and social critique seem to substitute for the subtlety and detail which would transform these books into something more than temporarily exciting and even instructive reading experiences. For all the immediacy and significance of Lord’s novels, the vibrancy of her work often seems to me to lie in its potential, rather than in the text at hand. In this respect Jumbo, the most recent novel, does not surpass its predecessors.

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