Lucy: Ultimate Survivor

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Lucy: Ultimate Survivor

Book Review by Catharina Worrell

At first glance, Lucy: Ultimate Survivor could be described as a cautionary tale for girls marrying against

the advice of their parents. After two ‘seasons’ in Bath, England, where girls eighteen and older are
presented into society, Lucy fails to find a suitable marriage partner, and instead falls for a handsome
fortune hunter from a planation in Barbados. Sam Lord has come to England with the sole purpose of
finding a woman with enough money to become his wife and support his dream of building a castle in

Lucy’s challenges begin not long after she sets sail for Barbados with her new husband and gives birth to
a son on board the ship. Upon arrival in Barbados, she demonstrates her independent nature by
choosing to breastfeed her son rather than give him to a ‘wet nurse’—another lactating woman–to
nurse him. Both her husband and new mother-in-law disapprove of her decision. Other conflicts arise
out of Lucy’s discomfort with the treatment of slaves on the plantation, and it is not long before Sam
becomes abusive as he physically lashes out at her when his whims and rules are thwarted.

Modern readers will be perplexed by the number of times he injures Lucy without giving her the
impetus to leave him, while members of the family on the planation turn a blind eye to the abuse.
Against the backdrop to the story is the appalling cruelty of punishments inflicted upon the slaves in
order to instill fear as the means of preventing an uprising by the enslaved who largely outnumber the
planter population.

Elizabeth Haywood tells the story of her ancestor with an enthusiasm that is reflected in the diligence
with which she recreates historical details. I especially like the attention to nautical details at a time
when so much travel and communication depended on sailing ships. Her characters come to life; I think
especially of Bathsheba, the formidable mother-in-law who has her own secret.

The book includes the historical period between the outlawing of the slave trade and abolition. When it
became illegal to import enslaved Africans, Barbados solved the problem of supply by encouraging the
slaves to ‘breed,’ a repugnant term which is part of the lexicon today. In reading Lucy’s story, I found
myself looking for more compassion for the people who created the wealth upon which Lucy’s leisure
lifestyle was based. But I believe we would all agree that they too, were ultimate survivors.

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