Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

From the Publishers:

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone—passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America—is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.

Lawrence Hill is a master at transforming the neglected corners of history into brilliant imaginings, as engaging and revealing as only the best historical fiction can be. A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex.

My Review:

This book was amazing. I could not put this book down. The book told the story of Meena from childhood to old age perfectly. While reading you couldn't help but wonder how on earth such atrocities could have occurred. This character was stolen from her land, sold and was forced to give up her freedom and eventually had both her children stolen from her. While all this is going on in her life Meena continues to assert her sense of agency. She seeks out education and books and eventually gives the same education to those around her. She finds her way back home after everyone says it will be impossible. The courage and strength of this character is admirable and I could not find one negative thing to say about the way her story was told. While this is a work of fiction it really helps you to reflect on what life would have been like for a person of colour back in these times. I give this book a 5 out of 5.

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