Local Customs

Audrey Thomas. Dundurn (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $16.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4597-0798-6
A sense of mystery and foreboding permeates Thomas's latest novel. Almost 40 years after visiting the graves of British authoress-poet Letitia Landon and her husband George Maclean, Thomas (Intertidal Life) crafts a story of what might have transpired between 1836 and 1838, in London and the Gold Coast. Landon, from a "shabby-genteel" family with a past that brought "malicious whispers," sets her sights on marrying George, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast of West Africa. Much is made of Letitia's slightness and her husband's foolhardiness in bringing her to its unforgiving climate where "the men die like flies." Letitia, however, seems to thrive initially, but dies after eight weeks in Africa, presumably from an accidental dose of prussic acid, although strange objects such as dolls and bats had appeared outside her bedchamber. The story is recounted in the voices of the various players: Letitia, George, Thomas Birch Freeman (a black Wesleyan missionary), Brodie Cruickshank (a military man smitten with Letitia), a young servant-cook Isaac, and Mrs. Partridge (the chief steward's wife) and reads like a diary providing a glimpse of 19th-century life. Thomas nicely blends fact with fiction as she speculates about the life and death of the curious and complicated Letitia. An enjoyable read. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 02/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4597-0799-3
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4597-0800-6
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