The Cost of Sugar by Cynthia Mcleod (tr. Gerald Mettam)

The Cost of Sugar book with Sarith and Minimini on front cover under big leaf

a nutshell: set in the 18th century, this utterly absorbing novel weaves together stories of love and cruelty during the period of slavery in Suriname – a raw exposé of life under the chief sugar colony for the Dutch

a line: “Five cents for a pound of sugar, and how many hands, arms, legs and human lives were sacrificed for this!”

an image: many parts of this book were heart-wrenching – one of these moments was the scene in which a child throws himself between his hateful mother and his beloved slave to protect the latter, reflecting how family dynamics were twisted in these oppressive households

a thought: I haven’t been so addicted to a book in a long time – I was reading it at breakfast, on my lunchbreak, right after work – I even had to be comforted by a colleague when I was visibly upset by one plot twist; McLeod is an absolutely masterful writer

a fact: the book was made into a major motion picture, framed differently from the book but still potentially worth a watch!

want to read The Cost of Sugar? visit here

The Black Lake by Hella Haasse (tr. Ina Rilke)

the black lake cover with dark butterflies symmetrical and against a backdrop of leaves

a nutshell: published in 1948, The Black Lake (or Oeroeg) was a staple novel for generations of Dutch schoolchildren – it’s the story of a doomed friendship between the son of a Dutch plantation owner and the son of an Indonesian servant

a line: “Here for the first time we were at a point where we each faced the other in all truthfulness. He levelled his gun”

an image: the scene in which the narrator blurts out his fraught questions around the idea of Oeroeg being “any less” than himself is one that eloquently summarises the absurdity of seeing difference as quantitative

a thought: there were several moments that moved me deeply in this short novel, but particularly the last few pages – I was so wrapped up in the narrative that I overran my lunch break!

a fact: born in 1918 in Batavia (now Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Haasse is often referred to as having been ‘the Grand Old Lady’ of Dutch literature – and has an asteroid named after her!

want to read The Black Lake? visit here