Strange Music, By Laura Fish

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The Independent Culture

Ordered by her doctors to recuperate by the sea, Elizabeth Barrett Browning finds herself bedridden in this book, in "the cleavage" of the Torquay hills where she practises what she's best at: being poorly and writing poetry.

Robert Browning, her future husband, hasn't yet appeared on the scene, and her thoughts turn to her faraway brother Sam, and the family's sugar plantation in Jamaica.

Mixed in with Elizabeth's fictionalised letters and diary-style musings are the narratives of Kaydia, a Creole maidservant (whose young daughter Sam is abusing) and Sheba, an indentured labourer. Elizabeth, a passionate abolitionist, begins to take issue with the family's source of wealth. Shades of Jean Rhys.

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