The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill – Review

book of negroesSummary (from Goodreads): When Aminata Diallo sits down to pen the story of her life in London, England, at the dawn of the 19th century, she has a wealth of experience behind her. Abducted at the age of eleven from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea, Aminata is sent to live as a slave is South Carolina. Years later, she forges her way to freedom and registers her name in the “Book of Negroes,” a historic ledger allowing 3,000 Black Loyalists passage on ships sailing from Manhattan to Nova Scotia. This spellbinding epic transports the reader from an African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from a soured refuge in Nova Scotia to the coast of Sierra Leone, in a back-to-Africa odyssey of 1,200 former slaves. In The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill transforms the neglected corners of history into a brilliantly imagined novel, already a Canadian classic that has been embraced throughout the world.

Anyone who knows me, or has read any of my blog, will know that this isn’t the type of book I normally read. However, after binging the Wheel of Time series I felt like I needed a mental cleansing of the brain. Meaning, reading something completely different. The Book of Negroes was given to me as a gift from a friend a few years back and has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read (along with so many other books). This seemed like the perfect time to read this. So, I picked it up, dusted it off, and got to it. Two days later, I had devoured the entire book.

First I want to say that, given the subject matter of this novel, violence is to be expected. There were a few things that had me wide eyed in shock, and I’m not normally one to cringe at violence in books. I feel I should warn anyone who may be uncomfortable with violence on children and rape scenes to avoid this book. Thankfully, there was not a lot of violence and the descriptions of it were quickly over.

I felt this book to be very powerful, especially as it is told through the first person point of view. I find first person really draws me more into the story, like I am the person I’m reading about. Aminata Diall is an amazing character. She may not have been an actual person in history, but I’m sure her story is very much like the stories of many people who were kidnapped and sold.

We all know that the slave trade happened. However, in this day and age, no one in North America has really experienced it. We all might say, “yes, terrible things happened.” or “yes, it was a great tragedy” but how many people really know how horrible the lives of these people were? Reading this brought me a new understanding of that period of history.

If you can handle the violence, I think everyone should read this book. I  highly recommend it and give it 5/5 stars!

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