Friday, 26 February 2010

Cindie (Devanny) 230

Cindie was an impulse e-bay purchase, a VMC that I didn't know anything about, and just bought because it was a VMC and not too expensive. But that is as good a principle as any for working my way through the VMCs and I certainly struck lucky with this one.

Subtitled, "A chronicle of the canefields", Cindie is the tale of a maid who accompanies her mistress to join her husband on the sugar-cane plantations in North Queensland at the end of the 19th century. Whilst Blanche, the mistress, struggles to come to terms with the wilderness, Cindie revels in the new world and opportunities:

"A delicious scent began to rise about Cindie...Ah! At last she had it! The perfume came from a clump of great lily-like leaves rising from the gentle slope of the bank, down near the stream...the moments of her discovery of that wild-lily stock were to remain with Cindie Comstock and recur to her as a stimulating excitement throughout the long years of her singular and uncharted life....a wave of elation swept through her as she stood, sniffing up that scent. Consciously, she only got so far to think "I'm going to like it here. There are things to do here that I'll like"

And the rest of the book describes how that happens. Cindie starts of as servant, begins working on the plantations and learns the sugar trade, coming to manage her master's properly, gaining a huge amount of confidence as a result. However, Blanche grows jealous and to hate Cindie marring her happiness.

But the book is more than just a novel. Devanny was particularly interested in history, and the novel is also an exploration of the sugar industry in Queensland and the changing role of slavery and labour in the area. There was considerable racism and much debate about the replacement of Kanaka and Chinese labour with whites. This is not an area of history with which I am familiar so it made for an enlightening read.

Cindie, was Jean Devanny's last novel and the only one published by VMC. It was just published once with this original green cover.

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