No matter how you look at it, Marguerite Steen’s 1941 novel The Sun Is My Undoing is extraordinary.
Three times average novel length, it covers 40 years, intertwines characters on three continents, and its hero is a slave trader.
Plenty of books tell about how slavery degraded slaves; this one tell how slavery degraded the slave traders. A mediocre writer couldn’t have envisioned this story, let alone written it.
In Bristol in 1760, the old reprobate Hercules Flood dies. His heir, Matthew Flood, sets up as a slave trader like his grandfather, even though it costs him marriage to lovely abolitionist Pallas Burmester.
After selling his first slaves, Matt “marries” his African concubine in a drunken mock ceremony in Havana. He leaves their daughter to be cared for by nuns and goes back to sea.
Years later, Matt’s quadroon granddaughter comes to Bristol to inherit the Flood money. She is shunned by everyone except Pallas Burmester.
When a lunatic slave captured by the British Navy turns out to be Matthew Flood, the news turns Bristol on its ear. I’ll leave you to read the heart-stopping ending for yourself.
The Sun Is My Undoing is a novel you won’t soon forget.The Sun Is My Undoing By Marguerite Steen Viking, 1941 1176 pages, 1941 bestseller #4 My grade: A-
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni