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Jella

 

This is Dea Birkett's story of her voyage from Lagos, along the West African coast and across the ocean to Liverpool, as a member of crew on a working cargo vessel - the only woman on board. It traces her slow, awkward progress from being a girl in a flowery dress who walked up the gangway in Apapa Docks, Lagos, to the boiler-suited cadet called "Jella" - "small boy" in the language of the Sierra Leonean crew. The book is also a testament to the men the author sailed with, the last of those who have been working the West African trade route for over a hundred years. This was to be one of their last voyages. The shipping line has folded, and with it the way of life at sea to which Dea Birkett was a last, privileged witness. She also wrote "Spinsters Abroad: Victorian Lady Explorers". This book was shortlisted for the 1993 Fawcett Book Prize and for the Travel Writer of the Year Award.
Author: Dea Birkett
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