Black Heart of Jamaica

Written by Julia Golding
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Ella McNulty

1792. In Cat Royal’s fifth adventure, our heroine finds herself and her African virtuoso violinist friend, Pedro, sailing to Jamaica with the Peabody Theatrical Ensemble. Pedro’s old master, the Jamaican slave owner, Kingston Hawkins, is determined to make Cat pay for her part in forcing him to free Pedro, and her old enemy, the London gang-member, Billy Shepherd, is now a plantation owner himself. As if that weren’t enough, Pedro disappears, possibly to support Toussaint l’Ouverture’s slave rebellion on San Domingo.
Before long, Cat finds herself in deep trouble when Hawkins tricks her into becoming his ‘indentured servant’ and she is forced to learn the hard way about the horrors of slavery. Will she ever escape?

I enjoyed this. Julia Golding is good at getting across the complexities of how the slave system worked, including the psychological effect of slavery on both masters and slaves themselves. When Billy makes Cat a present of his slave Jenny, Cat learns how easy it is to accept Jenny’s ministrations as her due. And Jenny has her own struggles to learn to throw off the shackles of the mind. The issue of slavery is economically and emotionally complex, and Golding does not duck the problems.

The press release points out the novel’s parallels with modern forms of slavery based on the Make Trade Fair campaign and Oxfam reports. The book would make an excellent contribution to a study of slavery and its effects both historically and in the modern world.

My one caveat is a technical one. The first 30 pages or so are mainly back-story, where we meet a number of characters from earlier books who then disappear completely. The result is that it takes some time to get into the book which could put off some readers.
For 10 plus.

Elizabeth Hawksley

It took quite a long time to get interested in Black Heart of Jamaica, because the plot moves slowly at first. Then I got interested. I enjoyed the plot of Julia Golding’s first book The Diamond of Drury Lane more than this one because I was more interested in the setting of theatre and London than slavery, slave rebellion, piracy and Jamaica. However, I found that the story gave an interesting interpretation of the slave rebellion and insight into the experience of being a slave. As I have been learning about the history of slavery at school, it was good to read a story in this historical context.
I felt the ending of the book was neat, it wrapped up the plot in a little parcel. I would want to read more of the series.

Ella McNulty, Age 13