Martin's Must Reads: 'The Summer Country'
“1854. Emily Dawson has always been the poor cousin in a prosperous merchant clan - merely a vicar’s daughter. Everyone knows that the family’s lucrative shipping business will go to her cousin Adam one day. But when her grandfather dies, Emily receives an unexpected inheritance: Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados - a plantation her grandfather never told anyone he owned.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s part of the summary from the book jacket of Lauren Willig’s novel The Summer Country. The story alternates between Emily’s visit in 1854 and 1812 when Emily’s grandparents lived on two adjacent plantations. In 1812 slaves were used to harvest the sugar cane and children born of slave owners indiscretions were considered property.
As the story begins in 1812 Charles Davenant has arrived in Barbados to oversee his father’s plantation. The overseer of the neighboring plantation, Colonel Lyons, schemes to marry his niece to Charles so the two plantations can be combined. But it’s her mulatto maid, Jenny, whom Charles loves. They search for ways to be together hoping the British Parliament will soon declare slavery illegal.
Meanwhile, in 1854, Emily works to solve the mystery of the deserted plantation that was left to her. She’s invited to stay at the neighboring plantation by the owner, Mrs. Davenant, someone who was alive in 1812 and a witness to the slave uprising and fire that destroyed Peverills. Emily senses that Mrs. Davenant is hiding something from her and determines to uncover what exactly happened forty years before.
If you’re looking for a story steeped in the plantation culture of Barbados in the early 1800’s, then you must read The Summer Country by Lauren Willig.