Island of a Thousand Springs
#1 Caribbean Island Saga
by Sarah Lark
Formats available: Print and Electronic
Pub Date: 10.3.14 | Pages: 511
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
Ebook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
London, 1732: Nora Reed, the daughter of a merchant, falls hopelessly in love with her father’s clerk, Simon. Despite their differing social class, the star-crossed lovers dream of a future on a tropical island – until tragedy strikes, and Nora must face a life without her soulmate. Hopeless, Nora enters a marriage of convenience with Elias Fortnam, a widower and sugar planter in Jamaica. Even without Simon, she is determined to somehow fulfill their tropical fantasy. But life in the Caribbean doesn’t turn out as Nora had dreamt.
Nora is deeply shocked by the way plantation owners treat the slaves and decides to shake things up on her own sugar cane plantation – for the better. Surprisingly, her adult stepson Doug supports her in this endeavor when he arrives from Europe. However, his return also puts things into a state of turmoil – especially Nora’s feelings.
Just as Nora seems to be settling into her role as lady of the house, one harrowing event rips everything from her but her life…
A gripping tale of love and hate, trust and betrayal, and a thrilling destiny set against the pristine beaches and swaying palmtrees of the tropics. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23414270-island-of-a-thousand-springs
A historical saga beginning in 1730’s Georgian London and continuing on to the island of Jamaica following the lives of colonials and slaves alike was rather enticing to me. This was a ponderous book much in the general way of sagas, but the colorful and dynamic story was worth it.
Island of a Thousand Springs is told in parts. Part one is of a very young and naive Nora Reed with her first love and under her wealthy merchant father’s gentle care. Part two- four is Jamaica.
The story is told mostly from Nora’s perspective, but many others get narrative moments which help the reader see the motives behind actions. This saga is a well-written historical piece, but also offers the story of people in all their shades of gray.
I started out without much connection to Nora. She was so young and sheltered. She was in love with a man who lost his family title and lands due to his father’s debts. Simon was a dreamer and too delicate for hard life. His family ran him into the ground demanding what he did not have to give (clothes, dowry, niceties) while he’s in poverty dwelling in a leaking, freezing attic in the deplorable east end. Nora wasn’t much better at first with her ideas of courtship and her refusal to understand that Simon could not just approach Mr. Reed with a marriage offer based solely on ‘we love each other and we want to live in a hut on a tropical island’. But then hardships came and she grew and had a core strength and dignity that had my respect and need to see her through the bad times.
Each stage of the book could be defined by Nora’s time with the different men in her life: Simon, Elias, Akiwasa, and Doug. They each wanted her for very different reasons and for the longest time she clung to her Simon and their dream. It’s where she went inside her head when she needed an escape. She was not like the other planter’s wives in that she was not just an arm ornament. She was anti-slavery and came from merchant stock so she was hardier and more practical and she found a way to take action even if she was limited by the societal mores of the time. I loved seeing her quietly come into her own on that plantation.
Speaking of this historical time period, the terminology of this book reflects the thinking of the day. It makes a modern reader cringe with the ‘N’ words, the way a whole ethnic group was de-personalized even down to refusing them baptism if they wanted it or marriage because the preferred thinking was that the slaves had no souls and were not people. Ugh, it was hard to read.
I had much to ponder as I read. A curious part was the strata within the black community. The tribes represented on the plantations and in the free Maroon communities were as diverse from each other as from the whites. There weren’t mass uprisings or throwing off the slavery because some of those mixed together on the plantations were sworn enemies and would rather work the white man’s fields than consort with their hated enemies from Africa. Many saw enslavement as just bad luck because back in Africa losing at tribal war or war with other groups on the continent resulted in being taken as slaves. The difference was that the slavery within Africa wasn’t a de-personalization like in the colonies. There were all sorts of ways of thinking on the part of African slaves, Maroons (free or escaped blacks), and whites that were discoveries for me. I also found that within certain tribes, women’s lib was alive and well. The Ashanti were matriarchal having Queens, religious leaders, healers, and warrior women though other tribes the women were suppressed and were more pack mule and field hand than marriage partner.
On a side note, I read this as a translated story. The author is German and the book was not written originally in English. The translator, Sharmila Cohen, did a fantastic job. If I didn’t already know this was not written in English, I wouldn’t have guessed that and kudos to her since there was a lot of tricky historical terminology specific to time, region, and ethnic group.
So this is a huge historical saga about Nora and the plantation there on Jamaica. It’s slow to get rolling, but this changes once she’s in Jamaica. Those who enjoy the bigger stories with broad casts of characters where history and individual character stories are woven together should give this a try.