The Book of Negroes – Review

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bookofnegroesThe Book of Negroes

By Lawrence Hill

Genre: Historical fiction

Winner of Canada Reads 2009, The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

This is the book of conversation this month for the new CBC Book Club, it’s no wonder why this book was selected since it did win Canada Reads 2009. This was the book that I said would win the competition before it even began. I knew it would win because it entered the competition with lots of literary cred because it was already the winner of the Commonwealth Prize and it was up for Giller Prize.

Now, I will admit here that I didn’t want to enjoy the book because I like to see the underdog win and I also like to think that part of Canada Reads is to bring people to new novels. But once I started reading the novel I couldn’t help but like it. There are times that I really enjoy this genre but other times I just find it to be too cumbersome. This novel was a great read and I found myself constantly looking forward to what would happen to Aminata next.

The one downside of this particular novel was actually how good Aminata had it while a slave in America. It seemed like, for the most part, he owners were quite good to her. She was taught to read and became rather influential with her second owner. This part made me rather sceptical about the novel but this is a rather minor complaint given the first owner did demean her. I was surprised how well read she became over the course of her years in America. It seemed to me that her time in Nova Scotia was worse than her time in America which I found rather shocking. I had no idea this is what life was like for an African at that time in Canada and even more surprised they helped setup the first colony of free slaves in Africa.

If for nothing else this novel is full of history, with many new insights of the time. I didn’t know where the title came from and had no idea such a document existed. And the idea (I don’t know how factual this part is) that such a document would have been recorded by an African even more shocking.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is a wonderful novel that should not only be read by all Canadians but all people. The novel is full of history and it has the ability to entertain as well which is a great feat the author accomplished. Great novel and if you get the chance to read The Book of Negroes go for it.

Here are others that have reviewed the book, if you’d like to be included in this list feel free to send me an email with a link to your post:

kiss a cloud seem takes a wonderful look at this book.
http://kissacloud.blogspot.com/2009/02/book-of-negroes-by-lawrence-hill.html

Beattie’s Book Blog looks at the historical side of this novel.
http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/book-of-negroes-lawrence-hill-doubleday.html

I didn’t mention in my review that book can found by a different name outside of Canada. If you aren’t from Canada and want to read The Book of Negroes look for Someone Knows My Name.

Readers in the Mist give a great summary of the novel with some thoughts on the book.
http://readersinthemist.blogspot.com/2008/12/someone-knows-my-name-published-in.html

Pickle Me This has a great review of this novel.
http://picklemethis.blogspot.com/2009/01/pickle-me-this-reads-canada-reads-book.htm

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19 thoughts on “The Book of Negroes – Review

  1. Nice review. I’m about to start this book. I was doing Canada Reads but only got through Outlander and Mercy Among the Children because they took so long coming from the library. I’m sure The Book of Negroes deserved the win and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Hill came to my school to talk to a few eleventh grade history and English classes that were reading it about a month ago.
    He made a comment about something you noticed, “And the idea (I don’t know how factual this part is) that such a document would have been recorded by an African even more shocking.” He said that that part was fictional. The likelihood of an African writing in it was very very slim.

    • AnnieveaRoze: That’s awesome. I think he’d be an interesting guy to sit and have a chat with. Thanks for sharing that information. I thought that but I questioned it because of it dominance in the book.

  3. Enjoyed your review, thanks. This one is a must read but I doubt it’s coming off the rapid read list any time soon at my local library. I hate rapid reads—I’ve read books in less than seven days, I just don’t like being told to, so refuse to borrow them on principle. It would be quicker to buy it for my daughter as a gift then borrow it from her.

  4. I’m finally getting back to read your review. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this book. Thanks again for the copy you sent me. It’s on my shelf waiting for me to find some time to read it.

  5. I am from the States and heard about the book because I listen to Canadian Public Radio. I am also a retired English teacher. I was particularly impressed by the book because it presented another point of view of the American Revolution-the irony of fighting for freedom and maintaining slavery.

    As to the point of “how good Aminata had it while a slave in America,” that speaks to the point that no matter has “good” one has it as a slave, one is still a slave. This counters the arguement of many slave owners whose justifican for slavery is that thier slaves are treated well.

    It is unfortuantate that the title of the book was changed for publication in the States. This was an educational opportunity missed. Very few know about THE BOOK OF NEGROES on which the title is based.

    A well written book with with an absorbing story, historical significance and a political and social significance….

    John Shields, Mayor, Village of Nyack, New York

    • John,
      As an educator, I completely an in agreement with your post.

      Moreover, I really like your comment, “As to the point of “how good Aminata had it while a slave in America,” that speaks to the point that no matter has “good” one has it as a slave, one is still a slave. This counters the arguement of many slave owners whose justifican for slavery is that thier slaves are treated well.”
      I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to the bloggers post, but you put it well.

      I don’t know how I came across this blog today, but I am so glad I did. My hat’s off to you.
      I’ll be sure to come back – soon!

      Successes,

      PCC

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