Books

From Bridgerton to Sanditon—Putting Island Queen in a Period Drama Context

Dorothy’s in-character first particular person narration is the glue that holds the story collectively by frequent flashbacks to her childhood and younger maturity to her life in 1824 as a grandmother. The foremost theme of self-determination in a world the place wealthy white males determine the principles everybody should play retains the reader engaged even when it isn’t clear the place the plot is heading. In the current plot, Dorothy has returned to London after a few years away to petition colonial leaders to retain hard-won rights for Black and biracial girls in Demerara. These unequal legal guidelines threaten Dorothy’s kids and grandchildren and will even take away the liberty and inheritance she has spent her complete life to build. 

Bridgerton’s critics will discover solace in Island Queen. Those who wished the Black aristocracy of Haiti and different Caribbean islands featured in the collection will discover this historical past on the heart. Kirwan navigates a world with inherent inequality, regardless of how a lot she has achieved in property possession and financial savings. When she interacts with British and colonial elites, they by no means deal with her as if she has energy over them. The racial caste system in existence influences all of her interactions. After a breakup, she takes up a proposal from Prince William (Queen Victoria’s uncle who died with no official heirs) to journey with him on his ship. In Dorothy’s story, he offers a non permanent emotional distraction but additionally a recognition that she would by no means match into the British elite due to her pores and skin shade and island background. Unlike Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton, the actual prejudices of the period held Dorothy again from ascending utterly into the very best ranges of royal society. Riley’s narrative, particularly, ignores what might have been and reveals readers the reality. 

These wealthy white males who positioned synthetic limits on Dorothy have been additionally the supply for younger Alexander Hamilton’s childhood poverty. However, his answer as featured in the opening track of Hamilton was to depart the islands to pursue his schooling in America. This was an choice steeped in male and to an extent white privilege as girls at this level in historical past weren’t allowed to attend faculty. In addition, American society had already enacted extreme restrictions in the rights of free folks of shade. Hamilton additionally was an orphan. Dorothy’s dad and mom and her kids saved her rooted to the Caribbean. 

The highway to Dorothy buying a thriving business and heirs was prolonged and arduous, and Riley doesn’t sugar coat the dynamics at play in her life. Kirwan’s mom was a slave and her father owned a plantation. The extra share of white ancestry you’ve got in your blood, the extra freedom and rights you’ve got. In her teenage years, Dorothy’s white half-brother Nicholas rapes her and he or she finally ends up giving beginning to a daughter. Dorothy is pressured to run away with a trusted buddy to one other island and has to depart her daughter behind. This is the start of many sacrifices she makes in order to shield her household. 

Although many readers could object to Riley portraying incest and sexual assault, the historic analysis makes this clear that this was the fact for ladies in slave societies. Dorothy’s narration is fastidiously crafted to present not solely the trauma of the occasion, however her processing the trauma. For Dorothy, therapeutic comes in the type of survival. The goal isn’t exploitation or the male gaze, however to illuminate ignored historical past and the intersection of race and gender in sexual energy dynamics. Dorothy has to repeatedly set up consent and belief in a world the place her companions can and can refuse to agree to these phrases. The debate over rape tradition in historic fiction revolves round characters which are fictional dealing with fictionalized conditions, particularly in the TV diversifications of Outlander and Bridgerton. Additionally, Outlander has sidestepped any severe contemplation of exploitation dynamics in slave societies regardless of plots that includes eighth Century Jamaica and North Carolina.  It is tough to apply this similar critique to Riley’s novel as her intention is historic recreation and reconstruction of Kirwan’s life story. 

Riley’s rationalization and contextualization of race and gender dynamics is one thing many viewers wished the first season of British historical drama Sanditon to address, previous the present alluding to Georgiana’s ancestry and £100,000 inheritance. In reality, Riley explains in the Author’s Note that the journey to discovering Dorothy Kirwan started with determining who the actual Miss Lambe might have been over a decade in the past. For Georgiana to have that sort of wealth, she would have had to have a white male ancestor keen and ready to use the regulation to safe her freedom. Sidney’s connection to Georgiana as her authorized ward isn’t clear, representing a missed alternative that erodes the story’s worldbuilding. Dorothy’s rationalization of social rankings and her personal background means it’s extremely possible Georgiana is the product of a relationship between a white planter and an enslaved or indentured lady. Georgiana isn’t the one instance of an fictional inheritor from the islands round this time interval. Rhoda Swartz from Vanity Fair has Black and Jewish ancestry together with hundreds of kilos. Island Queen has the space and curiosity to utterly heart the story of ladies like Georgiana and Rhoda position from the angle of a Black author and historian. 

Back to top button