Cat Among the Pigeons
London, 1790. In this, the second of Cat Royal of Drury Lane Theatre’s adventures, Cat’s friend, the black actor Pedro, is in deep trouble. His former master, the slave-owner Kingston Hawkins, claims that Pedro is his personal property and demands that the theatre gives him up. Pedro is due to play Ariel in The Tempest. The support of the fickle theatre-going public is vital to getting Pedro away to safety – but will the audience be on his side? Hawkins is mustering a lot of support amongst his cronies, too. Then Cat herself gets on the wrong side of the law. Both Cat and Pedro must flee, but where?
Cat hides, dressed as a boy, at Westminster School, but Pedro is betrayed and captured by Cat’s enemy, the ruthless gang leader Billy Shepherd, who is working for Hawkins. Nobody knows where Pedro is being kept and time is running out. Soon Hawkins’ ship will sail to Jamaica with Pedro on board. Then Billy makes Cat an extraordinary offer.
This is a fast, action-packed read. But Julia Golding also illuminates the history of the age. Cat’s stay at Westminster School is no joke: brutality and bullying are rife and Cat must learn some very unladylike tricks to survive. Nor does Golding duck the issue that many British fortunes were founded on the profits of slavery: it is not easy to find a lawyer to defend Pedro. But this is also the age of the Abolition of Slavery movement and she introduces the real life abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, as well as three splendid fictional Quaker ladies who are fiercely anti-slavery, one of whom wields a mean umbrella…
This would make an excellent introduction to the study of slavery. Confident readers, both boys and girls, of 10 plus should enjoy it.
I really enjoyed this book by Julia Golding, even more than the two previous ones in the series. I thought the story got off to a good start with one of the characters in danger and a great sense of tension. It went into issues about slavery and gave good historical references about the slave debate and the slave trade which I’ve been learning about at school. For example, William Wilberforce and Mr Olaudah Equiano, who were real historical people, turned up as characters in the book.
The plot had many changes of scene and twists and turns which kept me interested. I felt that the main character Cat was developed more in this book than in the others – she was more 3D. I would recommend this book and would be interested in reading more in the series.