The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

The Book of Negroes was released as “Someone Knows My Name” in the USA, Australia, and New Zealand.

It’s been a long time since I last posted a book review but between school, work and just life in general, reading, unfortunately, is sometimes pushed aside. This being said, over the past few months since school ended I’ve read a few books that I’ve enjoyed including “The Birth House” by Ami McKay (a book reviewed by Deborah quite a few months ago) and “The Island” by Victoria Hislop (an easy read about a leper colony  on the island of Spinalonga off the coast of Crete). Although I could rave for ages about how wonderful “The Birth House” was, it is “The Book of Negroes” by Canadian author Lawrence Hill that is deserving of my short but sweet review.

“The Book of Negroes” chronicles the life story of  Aminata Diallo from West Africa. At the age of 11 she is captured by slavers and is shipped to the Americas. Throughout the novel Aminata is introduced to many new things while experiencing the horrors of slavery and living in captivity. Despite her terrible beginnings, Aminata’s life takes unexpected twists and turns, and the story tells of love, migration, abuse, birth, death and culture all through the eyes of a black slave from Africa.

Starting a new book is not always easy for me but after reading a couple of chapters in this novel I was hooked. The writing alone carried the story while the excellent plot, thought provoking subject and well crafted characters made the novel a joy to read. “The Book of Negroes” is a novel that I’ve seen advertised every time I step into a bookstore and after hearing my mom, sisters, extended family and friends rave about it, this book did not disappoint.

What I enjoyed most about “The Book of Negroes” is that Hill exposed a lot of topics, some of which I hadn’t been aware of in the past. He acknowledged that African people were responsible for enslaving and shipping their own people to the Americas. He also wrote about the difference between “African” people and “Negroes” and the way the were treated, something that I had always wondered about. A lot of what Hill wrote was new information to me and I appreciated the historical information that I was able to learn through reading the book.

“The Book of Negroes” is long so when you begin to read it be prepared to sit for quite a while. This being said the book is worth it, taking you on a roller coaster of the past, incorporating American, Canadian, British and African history alike.

My sister once said that the only downfall of this book is that it is written like a memoir yet Aminata Diallo is a fictional character. I think that Aminata’s character, although not completely historically accurate, is a representation of the people that were in her similar situation over 200 years ago. Those people were heroes living in a nightmare, taken from their homes and treated like animals. Thus, by reading this book, Aminata’s character and everything she stood for can also be called heroic and I thank Lawrence Hill for making this even more clear to me through this novel.

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2 responses

  1. Yes, well said, Natasha. I agree that what the fictional heroine lived through is probably a pretty good representation of what many others endured. I love getting my history through novels.

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