Jacqueline Friedland comes to the blog today with a lovely historic fiction set in 1840’s Charleston, mixing society, attitudes and choices in
Trouble the Water
Surprisingly fast paced despite the very plot-heavy themes with multiple challenges, growth and an overlay of tension that keeps readers flipping pages, this was a unique presentation that brought together historic events, challenges and choices in ways not before seen. Abigail Milton is a British girl, born to the middle class in the 1800’s. Her family has encountered difficulties and debts, and since she is ‘of that age’ it is time to prevail on a family friend in Charleston to take her on. She is put aboard a ship destined for the city, to live with wealthy family friend, Douglas Ettling and his family.
But things have changed and Douglas is now widowed, and wants little to do with ‘raising’ this girl – instead handing her off to the care of a governess to ‘finish’ her education and prepare her for a life in Charleston society. Much to Abby’s delight, she’s not forced into interactions with the gruff and disagreeable Douglas, but instead discovering this new place, the ways of society there and becoming more settled and curious about her situation. Soon, Abby overhears Douglas and another man discussing a slave’s impending escape and their aiding in that process. This brings instant questions to Abby, as she discovers that her benefactor is, in fact, an abolitionist and far from ‘accepting’ the status quo of all ‘good Southern landowners’, he is quietly working against that system, or as quietly as one can after knowing his wife and young daughter’s death in a fire were a result of his beliefs.
Soon the story changes as Abby understands the gravity of her situation and that her initial impressions of Douglas were wrong – as she looks at the issues around slavey, Planter Class, abolition, the outdated and outmoded (if very current) beliefs about the ‘humanity’ of the slaves, and their rights, as well as the early incarnations of the Underground Railroad, Douglas’ support of those looking for freedom, and her own relationship with Douglas framed by her new understanding of him and the dangers that seem to be ever-present in her new home.
Friedland brings all the research clearly forward, allowing readers to experience both public and private faces of society at that time, revealing dangers to those who aren’t supportive of slavery as well as those running from bondage with the help of many who are willing to risk lives, reputations and lands to aid them on the way to freedom. A fast paved and atmospheric read that brings readers into the decades just before the Civil War when the abolitionists in the south have started to act, rather than simply believe, in the rightness of their cause.
Title: Trouble the Water
Author: Jacqueline Friedland
Genre: Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Pre-Civil War, Setting: American
Published by: SparkPress
Published on: 8 May, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.
Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: