Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Book of Negroes

There are a couple of reasons why I read this book, and they are:

1. The author is Canadian and the story also has a Canadian connection, and because of that I read it for Canadian Book Challenge 3.

2. It was the last book standing on Canada Reads 2009. Yep, it's the winner. And as a personal challenge, I'm trying to read all of the books nominated for Canada Reads.

Here's the blurb for The Book of Negroes by Laurence Hill:
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.

Every once in a while I find a book that has the ability to bring me down on my knees emotionally. This book did that to me. I ran a gamut of emotions: wonder, confusion, sadness, grief, hopefulness and happiness.

I was hooked right from the beginning when Aminata is in London and talking to young children, and then she goes back to memories from home. Her abduction, and her grief of losing her loved ones, and her confusion was so real to me. I felt that I was going along with her, through her travels, through her experiences. I believe that she is one of the most interesting, courageous and wise character that I've ever read. It's a story of hope and survival.

I highly recommend this book. Just a word of warning, have a box of tissues close by, you will need it.

The Book of Negroes by Laurence Hill (5/5) Historical Fiction; Published: HarperCollins (2007); Canada Reads 2009; Canada Reads (6); 2009 100 + Reading Challenge (87); Canadian Book Challenge 3 (1);


Kailana said...

I really need to read this book! I have had it since it came out...

Marg said...

I have borrowed this at least once from the library but didn't get to read it! One day I will!