Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Also known as: Someone Knows My Name
Published: 2007
Pages: 486
Genre: Historical fiction
Aminata Diallo was just a young girl of eleven when she was violently stolen from her home in Africa and forced into the slave trade. Having survived the harsh and cruel conditions of the slave vessel transporting her and many other innocent captives across the ocean, Aminata is auctioned off and forced to work for a wealthy man and his indigo plantation in South Carolina. Using her midwife skills, intelligence and inner strength to survive, Aminata manages to register her name in "The Book of Negroes", a British military leger that is allowing 3,000 free slaves to travel to a new colony in Nova Scotia. This is the unforgettable journey of one of the strongest female characters we've seen to date.
This is a stunning novel. Simply stunning. Not just because of one single point, but a combination of so many. The plot, character development, writing style, and themes unite to form a remarkable story that is sure to create a lasting impression on anyone who savours it to the very end.

The plot has to be the most important element of the novel due to its sheer poignancy. Reading about the hardships and abuse that these poor human beings had to endure is heartbreakingly difficult, but it needs to be told. Waves of emotion are all that you feel throughout the journey, going from rage, to understanding, to forgiveness. On top of this, we experience the inconceivable strength that radiates from Aminata, who is the most powerful character I have ever encountered in a book. Imagine being torn from your home and watching your parents and relatives being killed before your eyes. Then, imagine having to survive the disgusting and sickening trip across the ocean, locked up in the disease-stricken basement of a boat. Even when Aminata does miraculously survive this, she has to withstand rape, sexual abuse, and the racist people who treat the slaves worse than animals.

In order for us to fully comprehend the circumstances, Lawrence Hill has to carefully and deliberately describe everything we read. This is done very well and is apparent when we can easily imagine the scenes in our minds. Here is a great passage to illustrate my point:

That night, while I watched from the Lucretia, dark clouds rolled in over the mountain. The skies grew black and starless. Lightning sawed through the clouds, illuminating the ships in the harbour and sending waves of thunder crashing through the bay. From the caves in the mountain, the thunder shot back at us, echoing over and over like cannons in the night.

This detail in the writing is distinct when Hill describes the rich, lush and cultured land of Africa. We feel the homesickness that Aminata no doubt feels, and it's achingly painful.

The Book of Negroes is a beautiful story that needs to be acknowledged by everyone. After reading this, I am so much more thankful for the freedom I have, and am so much more aware of the malice that was inflicted on these innocent and harmless people. This one is certainly a must-read.

Final verdict: Any person from any culture or any age group should read this one. I recommend you at least take it out from the library, but you'll most likely want to purchase it.


Nymeth said...

What a fantastic review. I'll definitely look for this!

Emidy said...

Thanks, Nymeth! Yes, you really should. It's a great one!

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Wow, great review. This definitely sounds like a gripping and moving read. I can't say I'll check it out right away, but I'll definitely look into it when I'm up for some deep reading. Thanks! :)

Emidy said...

Jenn: Thank you! I definitely recommend that you read it eventually.

Hazra said...

I really loved your review! I'm definitely putting this on my TBR!

Emidy said...

Thanks so much! I recommend this one for sure.