Dangerous Freedom

by Lawrence Scott

ISBN: 9781999776862
2021, Paperback, £10.99
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In this radical and moving historical novel, Scott weaves fact with fiction to reveal “the great deception” exercised by the powerful on a mixed race child born in the late 18th century and brought up in the London home of England’s Lord Chief Justice.

Dido Belle was the daughter of an African-born enslaved woman and the sea-faring nephew of Lord Mansfield. She was freed only on Mansfield’s death and became Elizabeth d’Aviniere on her marriage. Scott imagines Elizabeth’s adult world where she reflects on her disturbed childhood and fears for her own children’s safety at risk from slave catchers. Above all, she yearns for her lost mother. Why did she no longer write? Where was she? The novel builds to a powerful denouement as the events of Elizabeth’s past engage with the traumas of her present.

“In Dangerous Freedom I am trying to redress what I see as the romantic portrayals of Dido in art, film and literature,” says Lawrence Scott, whose first novel Witchbroom, set in Trinidad, became a BBC Book at Bedtime. “I wanted to question the sketchy history we have of Dido and, through fiction, to alter the psychological and political perspectives. I hope that the novel can add to our understanding of a pain that remains just below the surface of contemporary life.”

An absolutely wonderful read, rescuing the enigmatic figure of Dido from the frames of history and giving voice to her story and that of her enslaved mother.

Susheila Nasta

‘Dangerous Freedom reveals how powerfully an act of fictive empathy can dispel long shadows of historical forgetfulness.’

Marina Warner

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