Friday, December 28, 2007

The Book of Negroes: A Novel by Lawrence Hill

The Book of Negroes is a sensational, but very sad story about Aminata Diallo. As a young girl she is abducted near her town of Bayo in central Africa. She’s forced to walk in a coffle, survives a horrendous trip across the ocean and enslaved to work on an indigo farm in South Carolina. She eventually escapes and her life marginally improves. Later, she is utilized and praised by the slavers and abolitionists for her ability to read and speak several languages. That’s the basics of the story, but there so much more than that.

This is undoubtedly the best book I read this year. It’s also quite possibly the best book I ever read. It’s beautifully written with an absolutely stunning storyline. The author provides plenty of horrendous and heartbreaking details of the lives of not only Aminata, but several of the other fantastic characters as well. I loved watching Aminata transform from a frightened child into a very strong and courageous woman.

There were a few times that I had to read quickly, not because I needed to know that Aminata survives the ordeal, but because I couldn’t bare such horror any longer and I wanted to get to the next scene as quickly as possible. One thing I liked about the Hill’s story is he provides time for the reader to recover (if that’s possible) from some of the appalling events in the book. I don’t know if I could have read the whole thing had it gone from tragedy to tragedy. It would have been too emotionally draining. As it was, I got exhausted reading this book. It stuck with me so much I had a lot of trouble starting the next one. I also loved that the author used straightforward, everyday words to tell his story and I didn’t have to run for the dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.

The story is peppered with two languages that I’m unfamiliar with, Bamanankan and Fulfulde. I love being exposed to different languages and was thrilled to see a little of each used along Aminata’s journey.

Both the title and the cover of this book have been changed for publication in the USA. While Someone Knows My Name (US version) is still appropriate, I prefer the title The Book of Negroes (Canadian version). I also prefer the Canadian cover art with Aminata’s haunting eyes.

I’ve mentioned before that history isn’t my “thing”, but I found the historical aspects of this story fascinating. It was all new to me; I’d never heard of the Book of Negroes. It was a fascinating time period in our history. The author has kindly included a link for more information about the The Book of Negroes. There is lots of information about the Black Loyalists and a reproduction of the actual Book of Negroes.

Aminata and several other characters, as well as this story line, will be with me for several moons to come.

Highly recommended.

Heather's review.


  1. Thanks for letting me know of your reveiw. After reading it, it makes me want to get into my copy as soon as possible. Will link to your review once I get mine written.

  2. Good to hear you enjoyed this book too. I read it recently and my review is here:

    I was totally sucked into the story and read it in a few days.


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