In The Land Of The Creoles

I have a theory about historical novels, actually I have lots of theories about lots of things. A Historical Novel is a hard genre to pull off effectively, you have to weave your story within the known facts. Your characters can not interfere with history, they must play into the events.

Arlette Gaffrey has produced a wonderful read in A World Of His Own. She does not interject her characters into history, but rather uses them to explain history. This book is billed as Historical Fiction, but it is anything but! It is a wonderful adventure into the past. I was taught at an early age that it was very rude to discuss the age of a lady, so I will just say that Arlette is old enough to obtain a drivers license and may well have been part of the very end of the classic Creole era.

She grew up in the New Orleans area, and this book takes us back to the early 1800’s. It is a novel, yet I can find little in it that is not backed by factual accounts of the time. If I didn’t know better I would accuse this lady of sneaking in a history book!

In every nook and cranny of A World Of His Own you find those delightful little factoids. Within the first few pages she mentions the ‘Grand Tour’, this is something that is not taught in the regular History class. There are few people that have ever heard of the term ‘Quadroon Ball’, and fewer still that could describe what they were, or the participants.

Arlette Gaffrey also manages to include a very comprehensive history of New Orleans in the early 1800’s. My wife is from the area and I managed to out do her on historical trivia as a result of reading this book. I now know the significance of Canal Street. I also understand what a true Creole is.

It is these little aspects that make A World Of His Own so readable.

The story has Andre de Javon at its center, he has fled from the brutality of the French Revolution and crossed the Atlantic. New Orleans, or more importantly La Vieux Carre seems like the closest thing to his native France. Andre knows little about running a plantation, but sets his goal at owning one. He is not a poor man, but neither is he rich, to succeed he will need to put his life and soul into the project. Taking the risk of his young life he uses his savings to invest in some land, this in his mind will one day be the most successful plantation in the region.

There are two women in his life, the self centered Gabrielle and the delightfully innocent, yet older than her years Julie. Julie is only 11 years old when Andre first meets her, she is the daughter of his friend and mentor Jean-Claude Charlevoix. It is these women that in many ways shape Andre’s destiny.

A World Of His Own might be viewed as a love story, appealing mainly to the female reader, I disagree strongly. This is a book that has very wide appeal. Arlette Gaffrey has done an outstanding job of bringing the New Orleans of the early 1800’s to life. I have read numerous books both factual and fiction about this period of time in the region, and I can not find one single fault. The weaving of fact and fiction is seamless. If you are a fan of Historical Fiction you will love this book, if you are a fan of History you will equally love this book. Even the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte makes an appearance!

You can order your copy of A World Of His Own from better book stores everywhere, or by clicking on the Amazon link above.

Simon Barrett

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