Read Cambridge by Caryl Phillips Online


A prim and increasingly apprehensive Englishwoman observing the peculiarities—and barely veiled brutality—of a sugar plantation in the nineteenth-century West Indies. A devout black slave whose profoundly Christian sense of justice is about to cost him his life. In Cambridge, one of England's most highly acclaimed young novelists tells their stories with an uncanny authentA prim and increasingly apprehensive Englishwoman observing the peculiarities—and barely veiled brutality—of a sugar plantation in the nineteenth-century West Indies. A devout black slave whose profoundly Christian sense of justice is about to cost him his life. In Cambridge, one of England's most highly acclaimed young novelists tells their stories with an uncanny authenticity of voice and juxtaposes them to devastating effect. As a suspenseful and inescapably damning portrait of the schizophrenia of slavery, Caryl Phillips's book belongs to the company of Beloved and The Confessions of Nat Turner....

Title : Cambridge
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679736899
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Cambridge Reviews

  • ·Karen·
    2019-02-28 06:56

    Reviewing months or even weeks after reading a book has a mildly distorting effect. The mind latches on to those firework elements, their brightness seared into our memory although the accompanying smoke has blown away. Strangely, with this one, there was very little that remained. A burial at sea. A bloody murder. Looking at it again, I do recall that the voices were convincingly rendered. The story was a moving one. Only I felt the main narrator was a clumsy device, her coming as a stranger to this unspecified West Indian sugar plantation just after the abolition of the slave trade was a little too obvious a vehicle for some basic history lessons, and her coming at all was hardly credible. A nearly 30 year old single female, sent by her father from England to inspect the source of his wealth? What was he thinking?

  • Sophia Malik
    2019-03-09 11:01

    Emily is a thirty year old spinster sent to the Caribbean to see the state of her father's plantation. After a treacherous sea voyage on which her maid dies, Emily arrives to find that her father's plantation manager has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and in his place is the new plantation manager, Arnold Brown. Brown slowly seduces Emily, who incurs the wrath of Brown's former slave mistress. She soon begins to fear that Brown's former mistress is insane, and her life may be in danger. Meanwhile, Brown's mistress' husband, a slave named Cambridge, is also distressed. He knows that Brown is using his wife (whose mental state is delicate), yet he is powerless to stop him. Cambridge's anger at Brown grows when he learns that Brown is a brutal overseer who may have had a hand in murdering his predecessor. When an attempt to confront Brown turns tragic, Cambridge stands unjustly accused of Brown's murder.

  • Jonathan Norton
    2019-03-14 13:47

    Some of the other reviewers seem to be confused by aspects of this book. First of all: it is set at the time between the banning of the slave *trade*, and the *emancipation* of all slaves, ie. a time when cargoes were no longer lawfully coming out of Africa, but it was still lawful to own existing slaves in plantations. Secondly: Emily Cartwright is not travelling alone, she has her companion Isabella, who dies on the journey out. Those are not the mysteries of the story. The real mysteries are the ones that exist in the gaps between sections of each version of the narrative, for example the moment where Emily begins to refer to "Mr Brown" as "Arnold". In one of these gaps there occurs the moment that causes the events recorded in the final section, and it's an open question for the reader where that occurs and who is responsible. That will also affect how you interpret other aspects of the different accounts, and the varying honesty of the testimonies.I remember reading reviews of this book when it was published. At that time relativism and uncertainty were all the rage amongst the reviewers, there was a vogue for novels like "Mr Wroe's Virgins" and "Poor Things" that play with, and maybe commit to the idea that there is no truth above conflicting narratives of events. Perhaps "Cambridge" belongs in that strand, I can't be sure.

  • Cathy
    2019-03-05 10:45

    This book wasn't entirely easy to get through, so thank God it was short. The writing was undoubtedly good and I enjoyed learning about an era/world that I was not previously familiar with. But, Phillips seemed to do little to keep the reader interested and invested.

  • Weaverannie
    2019-03-02 06:44

    Emily Cartwright is een jonge Engelse vrouw, die uitgehuwelijkt gaat worden aan een veel oudere man. Voor die tijd gaat ze echter kijken op de plantage van haar vader in West Indië. Ze reist samen met haar vertrouwelinge Isabella. Deze sterft echter tijdens de bootreis. Moederziel alleen moet Emily zich staande houden in de Westindische mannenwereld, een tropische wereld, met zwarte slaven, die heel andere gebruiken hebben dan Emily tijdens haar opvoeding in haar vertrouwde Engelse omgeving leerde kennen en als 'smaakvol' had leren zien. De kleding van de slaven voldeed daar bijvoorbeeld niet aan. Ze blijft aanvankelijk de dikke Engelse kleding dragen in het hete klimaat. Ze sluit, na eerste enige aanvaringen met hem te hebben gehad, vriendschap met Mr. Brown, die de leiding heeft op de plantage. Ze verwachtte ene Mr. Wilson in die functie, maar die is spoorloos verdwenen en niemand durft haar te vertellen waarheen en waarom. Andere blanken waar ze op gepaste wijze mee denkt om te kunnen gaan, zijn de dokter en de dominee.Het tweede deel van het boek is het verhaal van de slaaf, die Cambridge wordt genoemd. De manier waarop hij de gebeurtenissen beschrijft, die eerder door Emily werden opgetekend, verschillen als dag en nacht. De schrijver is zelf in West-Indië geboren. Hij groeide op in Engeland. Hij is in verwarring over zijn afkomst en wil in zijn romans gebeurtenissen beschrijven die tot de gemeenschappelijke erfenis van zijn volk behoren. Hij stelt, dat hij een wetenschappelijk historisch artikel zou kunnen schrijven, maar hij schrijft liever een roman, die voor meer mensen toegankelijk is. De lezer leert iets van de beschrijving van interessante personages en zal zo misschien nooit meer hetzelfde denken over de geschiedenis.Het boek zet zeker aan tot denken. De verschillende oogpunten, die gebruikt worden, maken het boek interessant. Vervelend vond ik het gebruik van cursief gebruikte woorden, te pas en te onpas, door het hele boek heen.

  • Nick Jones
    2019-02-21 13:09

    The first two-thirds or so of the novel is in the form of a journal written by a young woman visiting her father’s plantation in the West Indies in the late Eighteenth Century. (I was never convinced about the reasons why she had gone off half way around the world by herself.) It’s partly a sort of travelogue describing her experiences: a journal would do this but it is not very interesting, a distraction from the centre of the novel, her descriptions of slavery and slaves, her conversations with other Europeans and their attitudes, etc. This works through a heavy irony: she presumes the racial inferiority of the Africans, the superiority of European civilization, accepts the views of the other colonialists...but we, the readers, of course, don’t. But I found it to be very easy: it is not difficult to be outraged by the injustices of two hundred years ago. A second, shorter, section is the narrative of the slave Cambridge: he had been a character in the first narrative and now we are given a fuller view of his life and consciousness. This should be effective, the broadening of perspective, placing a previously marginal view point at the centre, but again it all feels obvious. The third section is a brief description of events from a local newspaper: it is easy for us to feel the corruption of the view. And a fourth section describes a significant event...I won’t say what the event is, but I found this the most interesting part of the novel. Up to this point it felt that Phillips had his Big Idea and was cleverly illustrating it through the structure, but the obviousness of the Big Idea undercut the intended interest; the final section, however, shows a promise greater than the rest of the book: despite my disappointment I may well read another work by Caryl Phillips.

  • Alison
    2019-02-22 06:12

    I'd be lying if I said I really understood what was going on in this book; when I finished it last night I reread parts of it to try to find coherence, but I rather think that the obliquity of the connections between the stories was the point. There's the narrative by the white English woman who's traveled to the West Indies to visit her father's sugar plantation and to discover the "truth" about slavery; there's the much shorter narrative by one of the slaves there, a former missionary who's been kidnapped and sold back into slavery; the brief crime narrative; and the strange epilogue in which something odd has happened, and what happens there is what makes it difficult for me to understand the book as a whole--why does Phillips take it to that place? I guess I'd say that, while in "The Nature of Blood," which I loved, Phillips juxtaposed seemingly dissimilar narratives to find common thematic threads, in this one, he's juxtaposing narratives that are all part of the same story in order to reveal how simultaneous versions of the same incident can fail to have anything in common with each other. And that's especially true in the ending, whose extremities make a hash of the assumptions I'd been making up until then.* * * Okay, I just brushed my teeth and figured it out. The ending is a way of shattering assumptions (so you think that you understand slavery now?!?), yet at the same time, and this is the key point, providing us with an analogy, which, in general and in his writing in particular, brings us to a closer understanding of what slavery *might* be: something that is unlike anything else, something mind-blowing, something that defies you to make any analogies. But it's the analogy itself that brings us to that understanding.

  • Maggie Curry
    2019-03-11 11:56

    Required reading for EN 450: Caribbean Literature, this was not a book I enjoyed. Not much stuck out for me.Favourite Quotes:"She listened as her voice unspooled in silence.""It is these days heard abroad, and argued with much vigour, that the lordship over one's own person is a blessing far beyond mere food and shelter.""...she was swiftly followed by the cabin-boy, whose life never afforded him the pleasure of travelling shore to shore, and whose pit-bull terrier leapt over after him in a flight of loyalty that elicited from the scorbutic crew little more than howls of rude laughter.""...the greatest fear of the black is not having a master whom they know they can turn to in times of strife. The knowledge of who and where one's master is affords the black status.""If I were to be asked if I should enter life anew as an English labourer or a West Indian slave I should have no hesitation in opting for the latter.""Absenteeism was the primary cause of social breakdown, for just as one could not run a school without a headmaster, or a monarchial system without a monarch, one could not hope to run these tropical possessions without commitment to responsibility at the highest level.""...after being told that his possession of a white skin was no ground for belief in his word over the negro's." (Mr. Brown on punishment)"Africa spoke to me only of a history I had cast aside."

  • Trish Lata Gooljarsingh
    2019-03-09 14:11

    I am on vacation in St. Lucia and I came across this wonderful Caribbean writer who was born in St. Kitts. I read Cambridge in two days and thoroughly enjoyed reading it in this Caribbean setting. The book is about an Englishwoman Emily Carthwright who visits her father's plantation in the West Indies. Her description of the slaves and their life was so interesting. But her prejudice and contempt dominate the first half of the book. She is eventually seduced by her father's overseer and delivers a stillborn baby. Cambridge is a slave who can read and write and who preaches the word of God. He is sent after the journey from Africa to England where he is treated very well by his master. There he receives an education, marries a white woman [ Anna, who eventually dies during childbirth]. He inherits some money from his master and while on a journey to Africa as a missionary he is robbed, enslaved and brought to the West Indies as a slave. On the plantation, he falls in love with an Obeah woman who is raped by the white overseer. He ends up killing the overseer, is tried and then hung. The language is brilliant. Wonderful read.

  • Salvatore
    2019-02-25 10:49

    1830s(?) West Indies. A thirty-year-old daughter is sent by her father to take a look at his plantation estate in the Caribbean. Slavery is supposed to be over for Britain and its colonies, and yet it isn't. Emily (this brave daughter) brings over certain typical prejudices, but also more understanding than the creoles and managers already on the island. Drama unfolds. Switch to Cambridge's narrative, Cambridge being a slave on Emily's father's estate. You get to see how he attains freedom only to lose it. Then there's a bastardized version of Cambridge's story in a newspaper article. Finally it ends with a stillborn, a(n unsurprising) criticism on the colonialist future and structure.The varied narratives tug and shove one another, none gaining mastery. Which is the whole purpose of this novel. Unfortunately Emily's diary entries don't defamiliarize one to this Brave New World. And Cambridge's story was too brief and not passioned enough for what he had gone through to elicit the correct emotions from the reader. But you can certainly tell that Mr Phillips was highly influenced by JM Coetzee, Jean Rhys, and even Toni Morrison.

  • David
    2019-03-04 08:55

    This was a novel cut into shorter and shorter quartets, each from a different narrator but each basically providing the same perspective. So why bother with the cutesy style? Wish Phillips had finished the first narrative more elegantly and then stopped.The first portion, from the pov of a conflicted English woman inspecting her father's West Indies plantation, was the most interesting. It rang a bit false (what white woman would travel there alone? How were her observations of slave life so astute so quickly? Etc) but was redeemed by well crafted writing style and her waffling position on slavery itself. But then the piece abruptly ends and we enter a new "connected" story that's way too brief to conjure much caring, though by its nature it should. And it goes down hill from there, as we discover through a newspaper report that slaves were unjustly convicted of crimes (the obvious stated, in case we missed it) and then we float back into the ethereal musings of our English woman without ever landing her story on terra firma. Part 1 is a good read on its own but I'd recommend ending there

  • Sher ♥
    2019-03-18 10:57

    After a critical reading of this novel I found that while there was a depth to the writing that contributed to the overall essence of the novel i can't help but not like this book. While i appreciate it as a wonderful piece of literature Emily, the first protagonist was uninteresting and i wondered how i would ever come to the end of her superiority and repetitive descriptions. The second part of the book however, focused on Cambridge (for whom the novel was named). His life while tragic brought depth and meaning to the novel in a way that allowed the reader to sympathize with him while being provided with an incredible story. Caribbean literature has never been my strong point but i would recommend this novel to any enthusiasts of slavery or Caribbean history.

  • Karyn
    2019-02-28 06:11

    This is the first of this kind of book for me. So far there's been a narrative from an Englishwoman who has travelled to the West Indies in the early 1800s to look at her fathers Sugar Estate. The Estate is cultivated by slaves and the book provides quite a bit of insight into the ongoing debate at that time on whether slavery was good or not.The second part of the book is a short commentary by one of the 'slaves' Cambridge - this was the part i liked the mostOverall, quite a good book Larger review at:http://mindnumbinglysomething.blogspo...

  • Jasmine
    2019-02-20 12:11

    4 stars.This is one of the set texts on my university reading list for Approaches to Narrative. After suffering through Robinson Crusoe, I actually really enjoyed this.'Cambridge' follows Emily Cartwright - a white Englishwoman - and Cambridge - a black slave. I though this was a really accurate and insightful exploration of life during the slave trade. The multiple points of view really helped to understand the lifestyle from both the perspectives of blacks and whites. Although it took me a while to get into this, it was definitely worth the read.

  • Nina
    2019-02-23 12:00

    As you can see, after having studied art history for two years, I have finally gotten back on track reading novels. Another book languishing on the bookshelves - I thought it was a really interesting novel about colonialism both from the perspectives of the landowner's daughter and a slave. Caryl Philips treats this amazingly sensitive issue with a narrative that is matter of fact and almost scientific not allowing either of the narrators to become overly emotive.

  • Kimberly
    2019-03-14 09:55

    I read this book last year for my prose fiction class...I found it boring at times, but it contains great yet disturbing depictions of racism and colonialism. I enjoyed the symbolism (in fact I wrote a short paper about the symbolism of birth and babies). I also loved the font (font is an important aspect of the book for me,'s part of the visual presentation, right?) Haven't much to say about this book...

  • Riley Dawson
    2019-03-16 08:54

    I just really, really hate Emily. This was a really interesting book re:post-colonial studies, but I didn't like the stilted writing style or Emily's rude nature, or how confused I was by what her stance actually was on slavery. Cambridge was interesting, but his narrative felt almost emotionless, which was strange considering he went through a lot of stuff that would make anyone else pretty upset.

  • Susan
    2019-03-09 08:04

    I found this book very interesting but I can't say I "liked" it because it was harsh to read and unsettling. There were many things about the book I didn't understand especially the end but the time and place it portrayed was actually fascinating and not something I knew much about. So I ripped through it with interest but I was glad it was a short read.

  • Naeem
    2019-03-15 07:42

    There is an important book due to its subject matter. Like Toni Morrison's Beloved, I did not find the writing easy, enjoyable, or pleasurable. Nor do I recall any profound insight (unlike Beloved).But I cannot read enough about the history of slavery.

  • Signe Hansen
    2019-02-25 12:54

    School-books are never fun, so that... Does put a damper on my love for this lovely little thing! But it was, nevertheless, an interesting read. If you're into the whole colonial period and like travel-logs, then by all means: Do read it. If you, like me, find those things to be about as exciting as watching paint dry, then.. Maybe don't.That being said, it is a pretty decent book

  • Arnab
    2019-03-07 09:43

    Read this as part of a Postcolonial Literature course. This turned out to be surprisingly thought provoking, with the dual narratives reinforcing (and repulsing) one another. In certain sections, the author managed to get into the heads of the two main characters spectacularly. The story, however, drags when it feels like an infodump.

  • Katy
    2019-03-11 08:59

    I didn't enjoy this in the slightest. I find it difficult to read any books which are so full of racism. I don't know why it bothers me so much but I guess that's a good thing. The only part I liked about it was the final section which switched to Emily in the third person and made her more human than the whole of her first person narrative ever did.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-20 08:05

    Pretty shocking that an author could step so far out of himself to write this. Had the chance to interview him on the phone and he was a very generous interviewee which is more than I can say about other authors (cough cough Mary Gaitskill cough cough)

  • Rebekah
    2019-02-25 07:09

    An intriguing blend of travel narrative, slave narrative, and courtly romance. Phillips uses the female imperial eye to show the hypocrisy and inhumanity of absentee landlords and the creolization of English plantation owners during the slavery era in the Caribbean.

  • Mike Heyd
    2019-03-04 11:56

    I wanted to like this book but I couldn't, I think because I couldn't shake the thought that the author was more interested in making a point than telling a story. It seemed almost that he tried too hard to put the reader into the time and place and the minds of the characters.

  • G
    2019-03-23 07:44

    A feverish tone and an unnerving atmosphere make it a vivid portrayal of the transAtlantic slave trade.

  • Regina
    2019-03-14 10:05

    Decent read. There should've been more about Cambridge and less about Emily, as she was probably one of the most annoying and bland characters I've ever read about.

  • Diana
    2019-03-20 08:00

    Really hard time staying with it, ended up skimming through the last part.

  • Kavi
    2019-03-12 06:42


  • Nafiza
    2019-02-27 07:46

    This was a painful read. The things school makes me read. :\