- Published: 06/02/2014
- ISBN: 9781847088659
- Granta Books
- 240 pages
Feeding the Ghosts
‘The sea is slavery.’
Inspired by a true story, this suspenseful and moving book chronicles an incident of courage and rebellion that took place aboard a disease-riddled slave ship, the Zong, returning from Africa. When illness threatens to infect all on board, the ship’s captain orders his crew to seize the sick slaves – men, women and children – and throw them into the sea. But one female slave, Mintah, survives drowning and secretly climbs back onto the ship. From her hiding place, she attempts to rouse the remaining captives to rebel against the killings, becoming a dangerous force on the ship.
A trial is held upon the ship’s arrival to determine liability for the 131 missing slaves. The crew is nearly absolved of responsibility until Mintah’s journal is produced, which directly contradicts the crew’s accounts. The final words belong to Mintah, whose first-person account of her life after the Zong is troubling and dramatic. D’Aguiar’s spare prose starkly reveals the inner lives of First Mate Kelsall, Mintah and the crew members as they face the moral weight of this atrocity. D’Aguiar’s imagery is haunting, his characters’ thoughts complex and the mood is darkly compelling.
A novel of great power and beauty... compelling
Barry Unsworth, Sunday Times
A fast-moving, compelling narrative... mesmerising.. rare, troubling and admirable
Ali Smith, Scotsman
Fred D'Aguiar has fashioned a rich and compelling novel. It has both suspense and poetic resonance
Maya Jaggi, Guardian
From the Same Author
Children of Paradise
In the opening pages of this novel, an accident brings a young girl to the attention of the Preacher, the all-powerful leader of a religious cult secluded in the jungle. Trina has only dim memories of the life she lived with her mother before they joined the community and the closed, close society is all she knows. When she is singled out for special favour, it becomes clear that the gaze of the Preacher can be a dangerous thing. As the Preacher’s behaviour and the demands he places on his followers become more extreme, Trina’s mother begins to question her faith in the charismatic but fatally flawed leader and to dream of an escape from his control.
In this powerful re-imagining of the infamous Jonestown tragedy, D’Aguiar writes with the lyrical intensity of a poet, examining the motivations and obsessions that lead to religious fanaticism. This is a novel about the betrayal of faith and of innocence, a story about love, devotion and mania that is a brave attempt to understand the reasoning of people who would, in the end, kill their own children in the prelude to a mass suicide that shocked the world. Although history tells us that the ending of this story can never be anything other than a tragedy, D’Aguiar’s compassion, and his ability to draw the reader into the intimate and terrible reality of lives lived at the whim of a corrupt and dangerous cult leader, ensure that in the end this is a story of hope.