|The Golden Isle, pub. 1947|
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dr. Michael Stone has refused a lucrative offer as a slave ship doctor only to find himself kidnapped and floating across the Atlantic Ocean like the stock in the hold beneath him. Although paid for his work, he is made aware that his presence there is negligible to the crew and one wrong step could send him overboard with a bullet in his chest. Dr. Stone makes the best of his situation by realizing he may be the only hope the poor, confined souls below deck might have. In his efforts to create as comfortable and healthy a living environment for the voyage as possible, he, in turn, ensures more slaves survive it; much to the delight of his boss.
After a few years at sea, Dr. Stone finally takes measures into his own hands and releases himself from the bondage of his contract with the slave company – a night which ends with a bang! But it isn’t until he reaches the shores of Florida that things begin to really heat up.
As a lover of all things history and adventure, this second-hand-store-find was a lucky strike! Frank G. Slaughter spares no details on the nitty gritty of the slave trade and its consequences. His leading character is noble in nature and progressive in his methods, the author himself being a physician and well versed in the medical world.
In retrospect of the times, I am delighted to see that the author was able to walk the fine line of staying true to the mentality of the slave trade and the era it occupied and the slowly declining racism of 1947 when the book was published. This is a poignant piece of this story – the language, hostility, and honesty shows us just how the African-American race was described through the eyes of a white male in the late 1700’s as well as a more modern scope without apology. I will admit that while reading some descriptions and brutal depictions of rape or abuse I felt pangs of the heart. Fiction is best when you realize it must not be far off the mark to what the world truly was like a short few hundred years ago.
The storyline as a whole is enthralling. As a reader you find yourself invested in the happiness and success of Dr. Stone and the characters around him while at the same time rooting for power to be given back to a people.
I highly recommend this sharp glance into a dark time of the modern world. Not only will the story stay with you long after you read it, but the content itself will touch the reality of slavery deeper than any history book ever could.