Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl
This remarkable debut novel is the story of Cot Daley, stolen off the streets of Galway and shipped as an indentured servant to Barbados, where she later played a part in a slave uprising that united the Irish and the Africans. The story begins with a whipped and feverish Cot being interrogated by Peter Coote, a young man in the governor’s service who is determined to get to the root of the conspiracy in order to further his own ambitions. Cot agrees to tell him everything she knows, on the condition that he record the story of her life. So the harrowing tale unwinds, with all its whippings, cruel labor, forced breeding and brutal psychological trauma. Cot overcomes the lingering effects of this trauma only in the last months of her life, with this confession as her final catharsis.
Ms. McCafferty opens a window on a surprising aspect of 17th century history. The book has one major flaw: the uneven, heavy-handed thematic connection between Cot’s slavery and Coote’s ambition. The willing slavery of a vain man to the corrupt ruling class in Barbados can hardly be compared to the forced slavery of an innocent girl. Yet Cot’s narrative is so powerful, and McCafferty’s grasp of language and human foible so true, that a reader will forgive the thematic stretch for the sake of this fascinating story. Highly recommended.