by Chris Dolan
Dimensions: 210 x 140 x 14 mm
Publication: 15 July 2012
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Elspeth Baillie, a young Scottish actress, is chosen by enigmatic impresario Lord Coak for an acting career on the Island of Barbados. At first feted by the colonial gentry, her life in the Caribbean does not go according to plan. Elspeth is obliged to take on a temporary and ambiguous role in the closed world of Coak’s remote sugar plantation. Dolan’s plot is full of unexpected twists as Elspeth becomes ever more a prisoner of a venture whose founding principle is white supremacy. Captain Shaw, the factor, sets about building a New Caledonia that brings Elspeth and her compatriots nothing but a sense of timelessness and loss. A series of catastrophic events and rash historical mistakes finally breaks the cycle.
Elspeth is left trying to make sense of her own life and youthful ambitions among a shipwrecked people dreaming of home. Linguistically rich and narratively hypnotic, Dolan’s novel asks what makes a Nation. Bloodlines? Language? History? Or some ideal for the future? Elspeth’s hopes for a new world, full of drama and passion, collides with the all too real drama and elusive loves of colonial life.
"[Redlegs is] an engrossing and compelling novel. The picture of island life is vivid, the characterisation of the principal personages convincing, the elaboration of the narrative moving. As in many really good novels, there are small scenes which stick in the memory ..." — The Scotsman
"Dolan expertly captures the overpowering heat of the island and — Roseneythe being a hard place to live piously — the earthiness and resilience of the Scots women transplanted to another continent, never to see their homes again. And he’s done it in beautiful, rich prose that evokes a place, a sense of time and the beat of Elspeth Baillie’s heart." — Sunday Herald
"This is a powerful, disturbing tale, written with scrupulous care both for words and their hidden meanings, as well as for the history of men and women forced to live and work for a doomed, immoral cause." — Lesley McDowell, The Independent
"Dolan took 21 years to complete this novel, and though obviously not all of that time was spent writing it, the care and attention brought to it shows. The amount of research put in to it adds to the book’s quality, but whilst this research is important, it would all be for nothing if it didn’t back up a compelling tale. Dolan tells such a tale, and does so extremely well." — John Inglis, The Skinny
Vagabond Voices acknowledges the funding provided by Creative Scotland towards the publication of this book.