Review: The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill

The Book of Negroes
Book cover: Aminata standing in a rocky landscape

I had had The Book of Negroes on my TBR for quite some time before I finally read it. I seriously regret not reading it sooner, because I can totally recommend it.

Aminata Diallo is kidnapped from her home somewhere in West Africa and taken to America, where she is forced to work as a slave. She dreams of going back home and tries everything to acheive her dream.

A small note: the blurb states that it’s based on a true story but Aminata Diallo is not a real person. Most of the events are however based on real events.

This book is #ownvoices.

The story combined with the writing is remarkable. At times, I forgot this was a work of fiction and at one time, I even thought that Aminata Diallo might be a real person.

It’s a difficult read to get through. The issues that slaves had to deal with are not glossed over in any way. It’s a very direct account of what a slave might have experienced in America. The story doesn’t only mention the well-known problems that slaves had, but also highlights other problems. Aminata, for example, menstruates for the first time while being marched to the slave ship.

This book is the product of a ton of research. It’s well-grounded and the story flows from one experience to the next. I certainly learnt a lot more about the personal experiences that slaves had during that time. I thought that it was realistic portrayal of slavery. Slavery is certainly not romanticised in any way!

Aminata is a powerful and strong character. I kept rooting for her, even though I thought her next dream would anyway be destroyed as soon as possible.

Great quotes

“In one corner of the map, I saw a sketch of an African child lying beside a lion under a tree. I had never seen such a ridiculous thing. No child would be foolish enough to sleep with a lion.”

“I resolved then and there that since the Queen of England could pronounce my name, so could the rest of the country.”

It’s not an easy book to read but one that’s worth it. Aminta Diallo’s story is a symbolic illustration of the harrowing and terrible experiences that slaves dealt with.

I don’t think that this book should only be read by Americans but rather by people from all over the world. I didn’t realise that some Germans brought their slaves back to Germany, and this is something that I should have learnt in school.

Trigger warnings: rape, abuse.

5 stars

Have you read The Book of Negroes? Do you want to read it?


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