I won this book back in March from Joanne of The Book Zombie
. Can you believe I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Me either since it was one of my most coveted books then. My only excuse is my out of control ARC’s.
Then one day recently, my husband Bill asked me if I had The Book of Negroes. I was surprised he asked because he rarely reads fiction. I handed it over to him with the stipulation that he would have to write a guest review of it for my blog.
Without further ado, here is Bill Rose’s Review:
Book of Negroes, the fourth novel by Canadian author Lawrence Hill, is a truly remarkable work of historical fiction. It details the life of Amanata Diallo, who was kidnapped from her home in West Africa when she was only 11 years old, and sold into slavery. The book opens in 1802 when she is living in London, and being wooed by British abolitionists to speak publicly on behalf of their cause. The reader is then led back into her childhood describing an idyllic life in the village of Bayo, where she was born into a Muslim family and learned midwifery skills from her mother. This life is tragically interrupted one night when she is captured with others and led in chains on a three-month trek to the coastal port where they are placed on a slave ship for transport to America.
It is a voyage many will not survive, and at the end of it she finds herself in Charleston on the way to an indigo plantation on the South Carolina coast. The land is completely strange to her, and she only speaks the languages of homeland. Meena (as she is now called) learns English and is eventually put to work “catching babies”. From there we follow her as she is sold to another, seemingly more benevolent owner who teaches her to read and write, skills she masters well. Eventually he takes her to New York where she teaches English to other blacks (slave and free) while the American Revolution begins. The British offer freedom to all slaves who will fight for them, and with the end of hostilities approaching, she is hired by them to record the names and data of those who will be taken to Nova Scotia. She sails with them to finally be formally emancipated.
The life they find there is exceedingly hard, and when Meena is offered passage to England by an army officer sympathetic to the abolitionist cause, she accepts. Though she is now free, she finds London to be a strange place, and still yearns to return home to her village Africa. At the urging of her abolitionist friends, Meena agrees to be resettled in Freetown, a settlement for freed slaves ironically close to the slaving port she was shipped from decades previously. Our heroine is then faced with the momentous decision whether to risk a long and dangerous journey back to Bayo, without even knowing if it still exists.
This is a story punctuated by marvelous historical detail and character development. The numerous cruelties of the slave trade are detailed in ways that will shock the conscience. That its effects still reverberate to present day race relations, comes as no surprise after reading this book. The narrative voice of our heroine matures throughout the novel and adds to its richness. Though I am not normally a fiction fan, I found this novel certainly deserving of the buzz it has generated and a very rewarding read. It is highly recommended.
Please note: In the U.S.A. this same book is titled “Someone Knows My Name”. Thanks to Wendy of Caribousmom for alerting me to that.
Also reviewed by:
If I missed your review, please leave the link in the comments.
Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.