A masterly historic novel about a fleet of English abolitionists, their ne-er-do-well neighbours and a fateful uptopian experiment. They say their devil is white.
It is 1792 and a group of English gentlemen is recruiting settlers for a new world. Anti-slavers, they foresee the shining vision of a free colony in Africa where all races and classes can live together in harmony.
At first, all seems well. More than a hundred men, women and children sail from London on board the Pharaoh. They are bound for Muranda, an island off the west coat of Africa that seems to be ideal: uninhabited, fertile, well watered. For a leader, they have a merchant, Sir George Whitcroft; a gallant seaman, Captain Coupland, to sail their ship; Dr Owen to treat their ills; the Reverend Tolchard to guide their spiritual lives; and Caspar Jeavons, a young aristocratic poet, to record their exploits.
When they land, Muranda seems a paradise. Fruit hangs from the trees, the waters swarm with fish, the local king is friendly. Some begin to work. Others prefer to laze and swim, to drink and dance at night. But then the tropical rains begin and beat relentlessly down. Fever strikes arbitrarily and cruelly...