Sunday, June 23, 2019
The Seychelles is a remote group of islands in the Indian Ocean. It was unpopulated until the French settled it, taking with them African slaves to work the plantations there. In 1814 the French and British were battling for trade routes to India, and a treaty was signed, making the Seychelles a British colony.
Echoes from the Oasis is set a hundred years later, in the years just before and at the start of World War I. The country's French Catholic roots are still a strong influence. Anna Savy is a young Catholic girl, the eldest daughter of a plantation overseer. When she is called to assist in the difficult birth of a younger sibling, she swears off the expected marriage. Her way out is to become a nurse, although that is a career usually reserved for lower class women. However,she falls in love with Louis, the son of the plantation owner.
The book is filled with events: a smallpox epidemic that hits the island, Louis's father's amibitions to expand into shipping cause a deadly enmity with another islander, and war also brings tragedy. Still, I thought the book could be shorter with tight editing, as there was a good deal of repetition of Anna's feelings and emotions, and of explanations of the cultural milieu at the time. Catholic angst causes Anna a good deal of trouble. The genre is historical romance and the book felt rather like woman's magazine fiction at times. (I'm not sure if women's magazines publish much fiction these days, favouring stories about "celebrities", but when I was younger, they were full of it.)
Nevertheless, the story was an enjoyable read and I learnt quite a bit about the history of a country that I was not familiar with until now. Apparently this book is planned as the first of a series and it was left quite open-ended, so there was plenty of room for follow-up. There is no "happily ever after" just yet, but perhaps that will come in book two, or book three.
A.R. Tirant was born in the Seychelles in 1958 and worked as a nurse in Victoria Hospital, Mahé (where Anna also worked in the story). She emigrated to England in 1995. I couldn't find a publisher on my copy of the book, although I did find a printer - amazon.co.uk - so it appears that this may be a self-published book. It is also available in Kindle format and was first published in 2014.