The Devil is White

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A masterly historic novel about a fleet of English abolitionists, their ne'er-do-well neighbours and a fateful utopian experiment. They say their devil is white...

The Devil is White, William Palmer

It is 1792 and a group of English gentlemen are recruiting settlers for a new world. Anti-slavers, they foresee the shining vision of a free colony in Africa where all races and classes can live together in harmony.

At first, all seems well. More than a hundred men, women and children sail from London on board the Pharaoh. They are bound for Muranda, an island off the west coast of Africa that seems to be ideal: uninhabited, fertile, well watered. For a leader, they have a merchant, Sir George Whitcroft; a gallant seaman, Captain Coupland, to sail their ship; Dr Owen to treat their ills; the Reverend Tolchard to guide their spiritual lives; and Caspar Jeavons, a young aristocratic poet, to record their exploits.

When they land, Muranda seems a paradise. Fruit hangs from the trees, the waters swarm with fish, the local king is friendly. Some begin to work. Others prefer to laze and swim, to drink and dance at night. But then the tropical rains begin and beat relentlessly down. Fever strikes arbitrarily and cruelly...

William Palmer's latest novel is a remarkable potrayal of men and women and the whole range of their experiences and emotions, from violence and terror to tenderness and love, in their brave new world.

Available Formats

  • Hardback
    $45.00 RRP
    ISBN: 9780224096829
    Published: 15/02/2013
    Imprint: Jonathan Cape
    Extent: 304 pages
  • Paperback
    $19.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9780099572688
    Published: 15/11/2014
    Imprint: Vintage
    Extent: 304 pages
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781448129409
    Published: 21/02/2013
    Imprint: Vintage Digital
    Extent: 304 pages
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"Neatly written full of sharp twitches on the psychological thread...immense talent as a novelist...he doesn't write nearly enough." - D J Taylor, Independent

"Evokes a superb sense of is beautifully written and richly descriptive...a cracking read." - The Lady

"Palmer has demonstrated his unshowy but admirable skills in previous books and The Devil is White is a poignant study of ideals unraveling in the face of reality." - Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times

"Leads us with care through...unfolding tragedy" - Literary Review