Barry Unsworth

They All Wanted Money

Slaves in the Family


Viking 504pp £20 order from our bookshop

This book is the product of two different kinds of legacy. The first was in 1698, when a young man named Elias Ball, son of poor tenant farmers in rural Devon, learned that he had inherited – from an aunt he never met – a part share in a plantation in South Carolina, together with twenty-five slaves. It was the beginning of a slave-owning dynasty founded on rice – Carolina Gold, a it was called – that lasted for close on two centuries. By 1865, when Emancipation was forced on them at gunpoint by the Unionist forces, the Ball family had acquired more than a dozen plantations along the Cooper River near Charleston and something like 4,000 slaves. The author of Slaves in the Family is the seventh generation grandson of Elias Ball and the book came into being through his efforts to discover the meaning of such an inheritance in the only way possible: by establishing the facts as far as this can be done, by looking at what plantation slavery really meant, as a way of life, for both blacks and whites, and what it means now for their descendants. In this pursuit he left New York, where he usually lives, for a stay in the different world of South Carolina.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,