Suriname: Sugar and Slavery

This small South American country has always been a bit of mystery to me. I rarely hear anything about it. Pretty much the only thing I know about the country is the dark Dutch history with its slaves and sugar plantations. It does therefor not surprise me that the one book set in Suriname is exactly about the aforementioned subject. I do not mind that at all, and therefore I read The Cost of Sugar by Cynthia McLeod.

This book gripped me immediately. At one point in life I read a lot of books about slaves, the history, and the people. The books were mostly set in the South of US and partly in Africa. I tend to have these phases of reading intensely about a certain subject, and quite often I find my way back to the same subject over and over again. I still remember for example Roots and Uncle Tom’s Cabin quite well, but to be honest it would not hurt to reread them.

The Cost of Sugar had something very warm and familiar about itself, and therefore I liked it immediately. I also found my personal nemesis in the book, a person I could simply not stand. It is set between 1765–1779, when sugar was the king of the country. Two stepsisters, one good, one evil, grow up and it is time for them to settle down, get married and have children. They come from a so called good background, so they have everything, including their own personal slaves.

The evil sister is the person you do not want to have in your life. She wants more and more all the time. She does not want others to be happy, she wants their happiness. She makes people around her miserable. She likes to steal other women’s husbands. Nothing is ever enough. When a slave does not do what she wants she is willing to do anything to hurt the slave, including murder. Of course, it is not murder, because we are only talking about a slave.

This is a rich family saga, and how sugar takes it toll on everyone, slaves and masters, no one is safe. I find this to be an important book about Dutch colonialism and Suriname history. I recommend this book and quite frankly it is nice to see that slavery is written about in other countries than the US. It is a dark time in our history (when is it not…?), and sadly it seems to be a topic we have not learned our lesson from.

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