This book has a great premise that I was worried about going in and still worried about about a third the way through: what if the Atlantic slave trade were reversed, with Africa being the place of power in the world, scavenging and harvesting the people of Europe for trade in human trafficking?
This is a rich topic and can only be handled in a kind of satire, as anything less tongue in cheek than satire would be offensive or completely antipathetic. In the first section of the novel, we get the narrative of Doris, an Englishwoman whose name is changed and identity destroyed when she is captured and given over to working on a cabbage plantation in Africa. Her struggles and her life are beautifully and painfully narrated, and function entirely from a place of contrast as we compare in our readerly brains her plight with the plight of tens of millions of African slaves in reality.
While all this was interesting, it’s in the second section of the book that I was completely drawn in and found myself bursting out in laughter at times. The second is written as a first person narrative of her master in the style of a 18th century personal narrative laying out his justification for her enslavement (she’s the center of a recent scandal so this has becomes a public(k) conversation) and his own personal history and ethos. This second narrative is so absurd on its face and so necessary to balance out the serious but also fraught fictional account of Doris.