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Trade Wind by MM Kaye

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Location: Seattle, WA

Trade Wind by MM Kaye

Postby Misfit » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 2:26 pm

This is the story of Hero Athena Hollis, an extremely independent woman of the 19th century, vehemently opposed to slavery and all of society's injustices and determined to use her wealth to stamp them out. After Hero's father dies, she is invited to join her family in Zanzibar where her uncle is serving as the American Counsel. Hero's family always expected that she would marry her aunt's son by a first marriage, even though she is not sure she's in love with him.

While on voyage to Zanzibar during a huge storm, Hero is washed off the boat deck and presumed dead. However, another ship captained by the infamous slave trader Rory Frost pulls up their rigging out of the sea and finds a half drowned, bruised and battered Hero. Since Hero is such a bruised mess from her ordeal, Rory has no idea what a beauty she is until sometime after she has been returned to her family. To say more of the story than this would be revealing the entire plot, which I don't like to do.

M.M. Kaye's knowledge of the Far East shines through, as it does in all her books. She stays as historically accurate as she can, and pulls no punches when describing the customs of the Island, the slave trade, the cholera epidemic and more. And once again, Kaye is able through her books to remind us that the west and east are two different and completely disparate cultures and will never see eye to eye. One other lesson brought to home in this story is when Hero's eyes are opened to the fact that for all her good intentions, going barging in to another culture you know nothing about and trying to change them "for the better" to the more "civilized culture" is inherently wrong, and one should look to correct what is one own's back yard first before trying to change the world.

This was a wonderful tale and I had a hard time putting it down. Out of print, but readily available at my county library.


I see some of the other reviewers on Amazon were distressed by the rape scene(s) towards the end of the book. While I do not condone rape under any circumstance, one must remember this was 19th century, in a remote island off the east coast of Africa, during a very turbulent time in that island's history. Kaye set the plot well leading up to the rape and Rory's actions, while not fully justified, did fit in with the story line. There were no graphic descriptions; everything was left to the reader's imagination, with no gratuitous sex at all. Rory showed remorse the next day and while those same reviewers felt that the second night was a rape, I did not get that at all. I was surprised at the vehemence of those reviewers who reacted so strongly and I'm glad I reserved judgment and read the book for myself. It's funny how so many of our soap opera heroes began as rapists after attacking the woman who would eventually become his true love and redeemed by Hollywood to become yet another super couple, yet people found this rape to be highly offensive. I don't get it.


Postby annis » Thu September 4th, 2008, 4:38 am

Good review, Misfit. Yes, the good old days when sex scenes were indicated by a row of stars and left to the imagination! Like you I didn't think it gratuitous sex, but appropriate in the context of the story. The atmosphere of Zanzibar was well captured, I thought, and both the hero and heroine strong and interesting characters,.
This was the first MM Kaye novel that I read, back in the 1960s. Twenty odd years later I was rather startled to find copies in the bookshops proclaiming it as MM Kaye's new novel. I think after the success of "Far Pavilions" it was resurrected and republished, but it was a misleading claim!

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu September 4th, 2008, 5:25 am

I liked Trade Winds, but yes, I do have a problem with that rape scene. I will try to be boil down my years of counseling women with sexual problems to a few paragraphs in explaining why:

Women tend to be verbal/textual, where men are visual. This is why men have girlie magazines full of pictures and women have romance novels -- both can run the gamut from mild to horrific. The problem comes from the material that first crosses a youngster's path at the time they are first beginning to be sexually interested. These images (textual or graphic) have a very lasting effect -- one of the words currently in use is 'imprinting' -- because there is no context for those images. This shapes what titillates the person in the future.

A girl whose first encounter with sexual stimulation is a written rape scene in which the victim is portrayed as enjoying it, either then or eventually, pre-conditions her to fantasize violence linked with sex. However, this does not equate to enjoying violence in real-life. The result, if the girl repeats the images over and over in her mind for stimulation, is a mental picture that is always out-of-sync with normal physical realities, resulting in less satisfaction with healthy sexual experience.

And that is the real cost of those literary rape scenarios, even the ones that are not graphic, like Trade Winds. Males generally, and females with the context of real sexual experience, are not at risk. But the developing human psyche is terribly fragile and moldable in this area.

Location: Scotland

Postby Mara » Thu September 4th, 2008, 10:13 am

Misfit, this is a very good review of one of my favourite books. I read it after Far Pavillions, in the late 80's as a teenager, and still prefer it to FP. I must say that I found the rape scene shocking in one way, while in another I thought she'd already succumbed to his charms (she didn't admit it yet though), so she wasn't really adverse. The scene fits into the story, location and civilisation of the day but I'm glad most was left to the imagination.

MLE, your concerns are valid, especially at this day & age where everything is so graphic. Kaye was a different generation and even in the times she wrote her novels, such behaviour was still regarded as a gentleman's right, however wrong that appears now. Nowadays rapists get more severely punished than in the old days (except maybe if it was a lady of high standing). But still not everywhere. And still not severe enough.

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Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Thu September 4th, 2008, 2:07 pm

MLE, good points and well taken. Since I have little direct experience with abuse as you do, I'm guessing that it was a little easier to digest. I do take into context that this was printed in the 50's and probably would have been different in our more PC times of today.

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