A Barbados Reading List


I may be on holiday at the fabulous Mango Bay in Barbados but my blog isn’t, so here are ten books about or set in this wonderful island. Full disclosure: I’ve only read one of them but several more are on my wishlist. List compiled with help from the fantastic TripFiction and the Around the World in 80 Books Goodreads Group.


downloadGrowing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack by Austin Clarke

From the award-winning author of “The Polished Hoe” comes this delightful memoir. Alive with the warmth and colour of the Caribbean, singing with the lilting cadence of Barbadian speech, this is renowned author Austin Clarke’s own story of the trials, joys, and ultimate disillusionment of a small Barbadian boy experiencing British colonialism in the 1940’s. Authentic and vivid, “Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack” details the life of a boy whose mother struggled against insurmountable odds, yet succeeded in giving her son the best available education. It is a dazzling account of a slow, dogged climb upward in a society whose rigid customs, rules and expectations were imported from England and accepted almost without question by the islanders. It is the story of a boy bent on making his mark in that society, despite the cruelty of British schoolmasters and the incongruity of studying for his Senior Cambridge examinations in a mango tree–his improvised study–in a vast field of sugar cane. Throughout this first volume of Clarke’s autobiography courses his irrepressible exhilaration with life itself, his deep delight in the antic humour of people who populated his childhood, and his unshakable pride in his heritage.

517cNVFGkSL._SY346_Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart

In the late 1630s, lured by the promise of the New World, Andrea Stuart’s earliest known maternal ancestor, George Ashby, set sail from England to settle in Barbados. He fell into the life of a sugar plantation owner by mere chance, but by the time he harvested his first crop, a revolution was fully under way: the farming of sugar cane, and the swiftly increasing demands for sugar worldwide, would not only lift George Ashby from abject poverty and shape the lives of his descendants, but it would also bind together ambitious white entrepreneurs and enslaved black workers in a strangling embrace. Stuart uses her own family story—from the seventeenth century through the present—as the pivot for this epic tale of migration, settlement, survival, slavery and the making of the Americas.

51x96wcG-5LThe Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker

The contemporary image of the West Indies as paradise islands conceals a turbulent, dramatic and shocking history. For 200 years after 1650, the West Indies witnessed one of the greatest power struggles of the age, as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar – a commodity so lucrative that it was known as white gold. This compelling book tells how the islands became by far most valuable and important colonies in the British Empire. How Barbados, scene of the sugar revolution that made the English a nation of voracious consumers, was transformed from a backward outpost into England’s richest colony, powered by the human misery of tens of thousands of enslaved Africans. How this model of coercion and exploitation was exported around the region, producing huge wealth for a few, but creating a society poisoned by war, disease, cruelty and corruption.


513WmhL7uBL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Caribbee by Thomas Hoover

Caribee is the untold story of the first American revolution, as English colonists pen a Declaration of Defiance (“liberty” or “death”) against Parliament and fight a full-scale war for freedom against an English fleet – with cannon, militia, many lives lost – over a century before 1776. The powerful story line, based on actual events, puts the reader in the midst of the first major English slave auction in the Americas, and the first slave revolt.

Plantation slavery, introduced into the English colonies, set a cruel model for North America a few decades later, and unleashed the greed of early Puritans who burned unruly slaves alive, a far different truth from that presented in sanitized history books.  Buccaneers, one-time cattle hunters who banded together to revenge a bloody Spanish attack on their home, soon became the most feared marauders in the New World.

51p30U0ygTLThe Turtle Run by Marie Evelyn

She went in search of history and found her own future.

Becky has lost her job and her direction in life so is thrilled when she gets the chance to go to Barbados and research the exiled Monmouth rebels. But the Caribbean paradise isn’t all that it seems. The old plantation house is beautiful but lonely, and the locals are unfriendly. As her research becomes an obsession, one of the rebel descendants, who still works the same land as his ancestors, begins to get a hold on her mind. Is she living in a fantasy, or is this really an island of long memories? She soon finds that she is not the only one being led by the past…

61c64yJM1nL._SY346_The King’s Exile (Thomas Hill 2) by Andrew Swanston

Thomas Hill is arrested on charges invented by his old enemy Tobias Rush, whom he thought had been executed for treason. He is deported to Barbados where he is indentured to Rush’s business partners. When news of the King’s execution arrives, political stability on the island is threatened. Also in danger is Thomas’s sister and nieces back in England, and he knows he must return home to them. However when a fleet commanded by Admiral Sir George Ayscue arrives to take control of the island for Cromwell, his departure is blocked.  A coded message from Ayscue to a sympathiser on the island is intercepted, and Thomas is asked to decipher it. A potentially disastrous battle seems inevitable, and Thomas volunteers for the dangerous role of envoy to Ayscue. But with his sworn enemy hot on his heels, will Thomas ever find safety and make it home to his family alive?

51AGL4J41lLRedlegs by Chris Dolan

Elspeth, a young Scottish actress, is selected by the elusive impresario Lord Coak for an acting career on the Caribbean Island of Barbados. She is briefly feted by the island community, but a tempest kills her lover and destroys the theatre in which she was to star. She is obliged to take on a supposedly temporary and fairly ambiguous role at Lord Coak’s plantation home. The closed environment of the estate is stifling, but it institutionalizes her and gives her a degree of status.  Clearly Lord Coak’s grand plan to modernize the estate cannot be implemented without social reform but a catastrophic event breaks the spell and divides the community.

51-SnIl13RL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_No Man in the House by Cecil Foster

It is 1964. Howard lives a hand-to-mouth existence in the small island protectorate of Barbados with his brothers, two aunts, and his grandmother. He is waiting for his parents, who left for England long ago, to send for him. And as the sparks of independence crackle all around them, Howard’s life changes forever when Mr. Bradshaw, a black headmaster, is hired for his school. Howard begins to blossom under Bradshaw’s guidance, and learns that neither freedom nor knowledge comes without sacrifice, and that even battles won leave victims. In this beautiful, poignant, and ultimately hopeful novel, the fate of one Bajan family rests in the hands of change–change that only liberation and learning can bring.

51zCUg9GX8L._SY346_It So Happen by Timothy Callender

A collection of West Indian stories which features such characters as Saga-Boy and Jasper, preparing for a grand stick-fight; Big Joe, who will do anything to marry the girl he loves; Pa John, who is foiled by his own wicked spell; and all the men who try to beat Marie in a rum-drinking contest.

starside2.inddThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

After their mother can no longer care for them, young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados to live with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah. Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life. When the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.



Top Ten Bookish Goals: A Postscript


Yes, I know it’s Wednesday but this week’s theme – Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2018 – proved so popular (not least with me) that I wanted to do some sort of follow-up.  Thanks, first of all, to Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl for coming up with such a fantastic topic

I did a lot of blog hopping yesterday and I think a lot of other people did too.  (Nothing like being nosey about what other bloggers’ have planned!)  I started to see a few goals getting mentioned over and over again.  So, based on the 25 or so blogs I visited (not a scientific sample, I stress) here are the ten most popular bookish goals for 2018, listed in reverse order of popularity:

Ten –      Devote more time to your own writing
Nine –    Read more books than in 2017
Eight –   Write/post reviews in a more timely fashion, e.g. straight after finishing a book
Seven –  Read with less pressure, e.g. no target number, less challenges, no strict TBR list
Six –       Cull bookshelves (real and virtual) of books you no longer want
Five –     Complete series you’ve started
Four –    Complete reading challenges you’ve signed up for
Three –  Read more diversely, e.g. different genres, new authors
Two –     Be more active in the blogging community, e.g. visit/comment on other blogs
One –     Read more of the books you own/from your TBR pile

Do any of your goals appear on this list?


Jacket Required: Covetable Covers 2017

I don’t know about you but bookish perfection for me occurs when the beauty or creativity of the words inside a book are matched by an equally exquisite cover. It could be the cover perfectly captures the mood of the book, that it makes a clever allusion to the book’s content or theme or just that it’s a wonderful piece of artwork.

Looking back at all the books I’ve read in 2017, here are twelve covers that really stood out for me. It should be no surprise that quite a lot of these books also appear on my top ten favourite reads this year. To my mind, a cover can enhance a wonderful book but it can’t make an average book wonderful.

Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik – I love the colours, the use of silhouettes and the font chosen for the title and author’s name.

If The Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss – The cover is atmospheric and certainly attracted me to take a look at the book (the description then sold it for me). I also like the little details like the use of lower case for the book title and putting the first word in italics.

Shelter by Sarah Franklin – The Forest of Dean plays a key role in the book and I like how you get a glimpse of this through the window.

The Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane – I adore the painting used for this cover and it does really capture the reflective mood of the book.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift – Such a great choice of painting that really conveys the sensuality of much of the story.

Crimson & Bone by Marina Fiorato – This luscious cover reflects the role art and colour plays in the book and the author’s trademark romantic story line.

Wake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun – I love the simplicity of this cover that perfectly matches the style of the writing and the gorgeous, bold use of colour.

Stranger by David Bergen – I just find this face and, in particular, the eyes so compelling; an apt description of the powerful story to be found within the covers.

Home Is Nearby by Magdelana McGuire – There’s just something so appealing about the colours of the houses and how it makes you curious to find out what’s going on behind those windows.

Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva – I love the simple colour scheme that somehow gives a Christmassy feel but without any sign of a reindeer or Santa!

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman – It’s so clever how the design of this cover incorporates an element of the story…but you have to look at both the front and the back to spot the really clever detail.  Love the gorgeous colours as well.

The Existence of Pity by Jeannie Zokan – I love the detail in the botanical drawing of the plant which looks to me like coffee.  The book is set in Colombia so you can be sure you could get a great cup of coffee there!

Were there covers you fell in love with this year?

Blogiversary: The People Who Made the Difference

BlogiversaryI can’t quite believe that it’s a year since What Cathy Read Next was launched into the blogosphere but it is and today is my first blogiversary!

I could talk about how many followers my blog has gained or how many views it’s received. But, if I’ve learned anything over the past twelve months, it’s that it’s the people who make the book blogging community what it is. So, this is my tribute to just some of the people who’ve made the past year such a positive experience.

Authors: Thank you for your creativity and for crafting the books that make us go “Aah”, “Eek”, “Ouch”, “Eh?” or – my favourite – “I wasn’t expecting that!”. Thank you to the authors who’ve entrusted me with their books and waited patiently for my reviews – and for those still waiting! Thank you to the authors who’ve shared my reviews or commented on them with generosity and appreciation.

Publishers: Thank you to the many publishers who’ve supported my blog by generously providing me with review copies or inviting me to participate in blog tours – especially those who took a chance on me when my blog was just a toddler such as Bonnier Zaffre, Head of Zeus and Impress Books.

Book bloggers: Thank you to the book bloggers who’ve provided me with inspiration, acted as role models for the book blogging community and who continue to overwhelm me with their energy, inventiveness, camaraderie and passion for books. You can find some of my favourites in the blog roll on my blog.

Followers: Thank you to each and every one of the people who have followed What Cathy Read Next by email, on WordPress, Bloglovin, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I value your support.

Commenters: Thanks to all those who’ve taken the time to comment on my blog posts. I’ve really enjoyed our conversations and it’s been fantastic to receive feedback on my reviews, learn about other great books to add to my wishlist and chat about those great book blogging preoccupations: TBR piles, NetGalley feedback ratios and reading/blogging slumps! A special shout out to my top commenters: Nicki at The Secret Library Blog, Eva at Novel Delights, Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books and Lynne at Fictionophile.

Sharers: A big thank you to everyone who’s shared my blog posts on Twitter or Facebook or retweeted my tweets. Oh, and everyone who’s ‘liked’ them as well!

Tour organisers: Participating in blog tours has introduced me to some fantastic books, some of which I would probably never have read or even known about otherwise. I’m always blown away by the organisational skill and professionalism of blog tour organisers.   So thank you to the following for letting me be part of your tour host teams: Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Jenny at Neverland Blog Tours, Giselle at Xpresso Tours, Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, Sage at Sage’s Blog Tours, Laura at iRead Book Tours and Anne at Random Things Through My Letter Box.

And since I’m in a good mood, I’ll even thank WordPress for randomly inserting extra line breaks at random in my posts (including this one)!



Here’s to many more years of happy book blogging for us all!

What Cathy Read Next

Blog Talk: What Does Your Book Blog Say About You?


If it’s possible to judge a book by its cover, why not a blogger by their blog?

Look at the statements below and choose the FOUR that you think most closely describe your blog.   Each statement is numbered. Match the numbers to the words in the table at the bottom of this post to find out what your blog says about you….

  1. Your blog includes a blog roll or list of other book blogs you admire
  2. You frequently take part in tags, blog hops or feature ‘who’s that blogger’ type posts
  3. Your blog has been going for more than a year
  4. You display your stats – views, followers, etc – prominently on your blog
  5. Your most frequent posts are discussion pieces
  6. Your blog features lots of custom-made graphics
  7. Your blog has an archive, lists of reviews by category/genre/author, reading list pages or challenge pages
  8. On your blog you feature books from a number of different genres
  9. Your blog focuses on one main book genre
  10. Your blog is linked to at least four of the following social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest
  11. You frequently feature books with some of the following characteristics: LGBT; gender diversity; people with disabilities; characters from ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities; banned books; literature in translation
  12. Your blog has used several different design themes
  13. You post at least five times per week
  14. You post less than five times per week
  15. Book reviews on your blog are most likely to be for ARCs or recently published books
  16. You often feature author interviews/Q&As



Why not share in four words what your blog says about you in a comment below.