Breakout from Sugar Island

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
422 Pages
Reviewed on 02/05/2017
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Irish-born writer, Seamus Beirne, lives in Irvine, California with his wife Ann and their dog Lucy. Their three grown children are gainfully employed and live away from home. The stress of retirement is alleviated by frequent visits from their two grandchildren!! Seamus, a former catholic priest, has a B.A. in philosophy and an M.A. in English. He spent twenty five years as a high school English teacher and administrator. Breakout From Sugar Island, his first novel. It is inspired by a historical event, the transportation of 60,000 Irish men, women and children as slaves to the sugar colony of Barbados in the seventeenth century.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

The best feeling a reader and reviewer can experience comes from knowing in the first few paragraphs of a book that one is in the sure hands of a professional and skillful writer about to tell a rip-roaringly good yarn. Seamus Beirne is an exceptionally polished writer and his novel, Breakout From Sugar Island, provides an exceptionally good tale. This powerfully hypnotic book represents historical fiction at its finest, providing both detailed, accurate, and exquisitely rendered descriptions of a distant time and community of people, and a story so richly dramatic and adventurous that one is tempted toward cliché. You see, I really couldn’t put it down.

The land Seamus Beirne describes in Breakout From Sugar Island is the Ireland of the 18th century. The main character whose destiny and fate we follow – interspersed with many others equally well drawn and true-to-life – is Michael Redferne, a man of complex integrity and purpose led by events incited by his own inclinations to become falsely accused as an outlaw in his home country. Subsequently apprehended and exiled by way of slave ship to Barbados to work the sugar fields under horribly brutal masters and conditions, Redferne must work to save himself and his fellow victims, including one unforeseen family member for whom he has long been seeking. This book is so incredibly well written and wonderful to read. Under Mr. Beirne’s deft handling of daunting characters and events, this book’s impeccably crafted, tension-laden plot unfolds with masterful precision and gutsy, even heart-pounding, assertion. And to tempt that old cliché just one more time, this is that book that keeps you reading late into the night.

Tracy Slowiak

In an excellent new work of historical fiction by author Seamus Beirne, Breakout From Sugar Island is a book that will grab readers from the very start and keep them reading obsessively all the way through until the very end. Follow the story of Michael Redferne, a young Irishman living in the 17th century. He gets embroiled in a murder mystery when he pulls the body of a young woman, Maureen Kelly, from a frozen lake. Something tells him not to report what he found, and he hides her body in the ice house belonging to Lord Preston and his devious wife. After several twists orchestrated by Lady Preston and her lover, Michael finds himself enslaved and on his way to Sugar Island, where he and thousands of others are forced to work in the sugar cane fields in the most brutal of conditions. Will Michael ever get vindication for the atrocities committed against him? You'll need to read the book to find out.

I so enjoyed Breakout From Sugar Island. Author Seamus Beirne has done a simply magnificent job in creating characters that his readers will relate to, connect with, and truly come to care about. If that isn't a hallmark of a great author, I'm not sure what is. His writing is extremely clear and vivid, and readers will often feel as if they have simply slipped through the pages into Michael's life and that of the surroundings of the Sugar Islands. Any lover of historical fiction should absolutely read this book, and any reader who loves wonderful works of fiction in general should also give it a chance. I am so pleased to be able to give Breakout From Sugar Island my highest recommendation, and I look forward to reading more from Seamus Beirne as soon as I possibly can!

Christian Sia

Breakout From Sugar Island by Seamus Beirne is a historical fiction set against the background of 17th-century Ireland, a well-told story with great characters and historical references. Michael Redferne discovers the dead body of a twenty-year-old girl and, in fear, decides to leave it alone. He isn’t aware that this act will cause the most gruesome nightmares of his life. He gets set up by Lady Preston and her lover. Now he is shipped out to prison, to work in the sugar fields with other African and Irish laborers in Barbados. Sugar Island isn’t a place for him, and it isn’t a place one can escape easily. But Redferne has made up his mind; he must escape to clear his name before death comes for him. Question is: How?

Seamus Beirne’s novel took me by surprise, a pleasant one, of course. I didn’t except to find so much to savor in it. It begins on a deceptively slow note, with an interesting conversation, and moves on pretty fast. The author introduces the conflict at the start of the novel and awakens a sense of curiosity in the reader almost immediately. The language is beautiful, at times poetic, and the dialogues are very well-developed, reflecting the level of education of the characters and their backgrounds. Breakout From Sugar Island is a story with very powerful themes, including conspiracy, crime, loss, and redemption. Readers will enjoy following the protagonist right to the end. It’s a very captivating read with a compelling, intriguing plot.

Viga Boland

Breakout From Sugar Island, "the forgotten story of Irish slaves in Barbados" by Seamus Beirne, is historical fiction that even non-fans of that genre will never forget. What a superb novel! From the first chapter to the very last, Seamus Beirne grabs the reader and never lets go. Just when you think Breakout From Sugar Island couldn't hold any more surprises, something else happens that readers don't expect. Given the fact that this book is 422 pages long, it's quite incredible an author can hold readers riveted for such a long time. But riveted we are from the moment Michael Redferne's son, Padraig, spots something red beneath a frozen lake (which turns out to be the body of a woman Michael once bedded) to the horrific events that find both Michael and his son enslaved in the sugar producing colonies of Barbados, along with many of their poor Irish countrymen.

In 2017, with all the dreadful happenings worldwide that make everyone wonder when the inequalities, brutality and religious persecution will stop, it's easy to think we live in the worst era ever. But in the 1770s world depicted in Breakout From Sugar Island, only the circumstances are different. That timeless theme of man's inhumanity to man, the desire for freedom, and the lengths to which one will go to attain it, coupled with the anger and desire for revenge over our persecutors that drive Michael Redferne and his slave mates to escape from Barbados, is explored in depth. Greedy motives and despicable, narcissistic characters abound; good men die trying to save others; divisions in race are forgotten when both black and white people face the same evils. And inhumanity is ultimately defeated by that one emotion that bonds souls forever: love.

The plot of Breakout From Sugar Island is as tumultuous as the seas the Irish slaves cross to Barbados and back again to Ireland. Events happen in fast sequence, but Seamus Beirne never loses track of where the story is going and neither does the reader. The characters who people Breakout From Sugar Island are so well-drawn the reader can see, love, and hate them as fiercely as the protagonist does. Readers' emotions rise and fall like the waves as we turn the pages, unable to put the book down, wondering just how much worse can things get for Michael, Padraig, and their companions, and if they will ever survive the blows life has dealt them. Some do. Others don't.

Breakout From Sugar Island is the fictionalized history of another era, based on the realities of life endured by the poor Irish at the hands of the British. Today's descendants of the Irish will recognize and once again agonize over what their ancestors endured. Those unfamiliar with it will recoil at what they learn. But, as no doubt Seamus Beirne hoped in writing this book, "the forgotten story of Irish slaves in Barbados" will never be forgotten by readers of Breakout From Sugar Island. If you don't read it, you will rob yourself of one of the best historical fiction books ever written. And that, coming from someone who rarely reads this genre, is high praise indeed.

Lit Amri

In the West of Ireland, 1773, Michael Redferne, an ice harvester for the Preston estate, discovers the body of Maureen Kelly underneath an icy lake. Due to his past indiscretion with the 20-year-old woman, he couldn’t leave the matter alone. With the help of his son, Padraig, he hides the frozen corpse in the ice house on Lord Preston's estate. His harsh life turns worse, as an incident with Lord Preston’s son makes him an eventual target for Lady Preston and her lover’s conspiracy, finding himself shipped in chains to Barbados, known as Sugar Island.

Breakout From Sugar Island by Seamus Beirne is a historical novel that gives readers an insight into the rough life of the Irish in the 18th century. The clash between the aristocrats and the Whiteboys, a secret Irish agrarian organization, and the protagonist’s struggles to survive the labor in Sugar Island make a strong plot. The characters are deftly written with believable persona.

Breakout From Sugar Island is an interesting tale of fiction mixed with historical facts. I had no idea about Irish slavery until after finishing the book - my question was answered when I did a little research. As the history of African slavery is well-documented and acknowledged, it is not the case for the history of the Irish slave trade. It seems the term ‘indentured servant’ is more accepted rather than ‘slave.’ This reminds me of how much I still need to learn about important historical events of the world. All in all, a commendable read from Beirne.