By (author) Chris Dolan
Elspeth Baillie, a young Scottish actress, is chosen by enigmatic impresario Lord Coak for an acting career on the Island of Barbados. At first feted by the colonial gentry, her life in the Caribbean does not go according to plan. Elspeth is obliged to take on a temporary and ambiguous role in the closed world of Coak’s remote sugar plantation. Dolan’s plot is full of unexpected twists as Elspeth becomes ever more the prisoner of a venture whose founding principle is white supremacy. Captain Shaw, the factor, sets about building a New Caledonia whose reality for Elspeth and her new compatriots is a sense of timelessness and loss. Nature, ideology and the drive to maximise profit conspire to endanger the invented community. Elspeth is left trying to make sense of her own life and youthful ambitions among a shipwrecked people dreaming of home. Linguistically rich and narratively hypnotic, Dolan’s novel asks what makes a nation. Bloodlines? Language? History? Or some ideal for the future? Elspeth’s hopes for a new world, full of drama and passion, collide with the all too real drama and elusive loves of colonial life.
Chris Dolan writes for page, stage and screen. An early short story won the Macallan/Scotland on Sunday Competition, and Poor Angels and Other Stories was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award in 1995. A second collection of stories, Hour After Hour, was published in 2008. Other stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. His first novel, Ascension Day, won the McKitterick Prize. His non-fiction books include An Anarchist’s Story. The Life of Ethel Macdonald, and John Lennon, The Original Beatle. He broadcasts regularly on TV and radio. Winner of an Edinburgh Fringe First, he has written several plays, performed internationally, including the only stage adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader. Dolan has written extensively for radio and television, both drama and documentary, including An Anarchist’s Story, and a history of poor whites in the Caribbean, Barbado’ed (both BBC). He is also a published poet, columnist and teacher.