Book Review: PHARCEL~RUNAWAY SLAVE by Alick Lazare

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to review books written by my friends. But I recently had the pleasure of revisiting the debut historical novel of my comrade in Waitukubuli Writers, Alick Lazare. 

“Run Pharcel! You must run!” Alexis, a house slave at the Dubique estate on the Caribbean island of Dominica advises the protagonist. And run he does throughout the course of this engaging historical novel. After enduring unfair punishment that typically befalls the slaves at the hands of the white planters, he escapes, but not before he has become a victim of a fatal attraction.

Caught in a deadly triangle between the jealousy of Captain Marshall, the unhappy planter’s wife, Elise, and her reckless daughter, Georgette, Pharcel takes shelter at the maroon camp of Coree Greg. There he cohabitates with Betty, and makes a mortal enemy of the chief of a rival camp, the infamous Balla. But even after he drifts to the village of the Kalinago and takes up with the lovely and capable Kumeni, he is drawn back to Elise again and again.

‘He was like one bewitched, moving thoughtlessly and without will to a certain danger that he could no more avoid then the fly avoid a spider in his wide-spun web.’

When Balla is shot and Coree Greg executed, Pharcel becomes chief of the maroons. But as the strength of the English militia increases, he begins to question their future. He meets the free Frenchman Paulinaire, who preaches unity among all people of color, and is torn between loyalty to his own race and the dream of liberty and equality. But how, when, and where will his people achieve it?

Pharcel, Runaway Slave is an enjoyable and tantalizing read for a mature audience. The main characters are well-imagined and empathetic: Pharcel is a true revolutionary, Marshal is a relentless villain, and Elise remains insipid to the end. The scenery is lush and poetically described. The dialogue and the history are convincing, and the reader gets a true feeling of what the island life must have been like on Dominica toward at the end of the eighteenth century.

Published in 2006, Pharcel-Runaway Slave, is available from Amazon.com.