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Book of Negros [Hardcover]

Lawrence Hill
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Jan 2007
Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo thinks only of freedom - and of the knowledge she needs to get home. Sold to an indigo trader who recognizes her intelligence, Aminata is torn from her husband and child and thrown into the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan, Aminata helps pen the Book of Negroes, a list of blacks rewarded for service to the king with safe passage to Nova Scotia. There Aminata finds a life of hardship and stinging prejudice. When the British abolitionists come looking for 'adventurers' to create a new colony in Sierra Leone, Aminata assists in moving 1,200 Nova Scotians to Africa and aiding the abolitionist cause by revealing the realities of slavery to the British public. This captivating story of one woman's remarkable experience spans six decades and three continents and brings to life a crucial chapter in world history.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Canada (18 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002255073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002255073
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,066,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Hill's novel is a beautiful, compelling artifice, spun from unspeakably savage facts.... a fiction that faces the terrible truth about slavery" (The Times)

"A colossal achievement... heartrending yet inspiring" (Independent on Sunday)

"The ebb and flow of Aminata's fortunes is gripping stuff, with the horrors inflicted upon her and her people brought to life almost matter-of-factly - and all the more enraging for that" (Daily Mail)

"Richly meticulous recreation of late 18th century slave life... in its grand historical sweep, The Book of Negroes succeeds admirably in giving voice to a captive people who were for so long kept mute" (Stephen Amidon The Sunday Times)

"Wears its thorough research lightly... fitting that this ambitious revision of slave narratives should have won the overall Commonwealth Writers' Prize in the year that the American electorate demolished one of its most persistent categories of exclusion" (Independent) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Richly meticulous...succeeds admirably in giving voice to a captive people who were for so long kept mute. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling out my name 6 Feb 2009
Hearing your own name spoken in public isn't usually something significant. Yet, on a slave trading ship that transported up to a thousand Africans to North America, this act of public acknowledgement was momentous. Calling out their full names to each other was equal to "affirming their humanity". In the early mornings from the bowels of the vessel the chanting voices represented not only an important ritual of recognition and respect, it was also a way of finding out who had made it through the night. The conditions on the slave ship were abysmal: the Africans were jammed together and shackled most of the time, lacking food and water and sanitation, leading to exhaustion, infections and starvation. Many lost their minds, many more died. When the captives arrived in North America they were traded and sold like cattle and their suffering continued.

The brutality of the West African slave trade in which millions of Africans perished is well documented. However, when a knowledgeable and perceptive novelist transforms these records and the many personal accounts of cruelty and tragedy on the one hand and survival, perseverance and hope on the other into one inclusive narrative around one memorable character, the realities of the many merge into one rich and lively, heart wrenching and joyful history-based novel of exceptional beauty and power.

First we meet Aminata Diallo, the heroine of The Book of Negroes, as a frail old woman, yet with a fiery spirit and resolve that she must have had all her life. Hill's novel lets her relate her story in her own voice, direct and uncomplicated, yet subtle and insightful.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Compelling Read 18 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found The Book of Negroes to be a truly absorbing book. It's a work of fiction, based on historical fact and tells the story, via 1st person narration, of Aminata, an 11-year old African girl who is snatched away from her happy village home by slave traders. She then describes the humiliation and cruelty she endures during a gruelling march across Africa to the coast, then throughout a terrible sea journey on a slave ship to America where she is sold into slavery, with all its attendant cruelties and abuse, both mental and physical.

Aminata never loses sight of her intention to return one day to her homeland, and her desire to be educated, against the most overwhelming odds.

Although this story is fiction, it is based on fact, and the title is taken from the record made by the British Army of the slaves they transported to a new life in Canada - a document which apparently exists today.

This is a big book, but don't be deterred by that - I found it a really compelling read - harrowing in parts, but uplifting in others. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable journey 22 Jun 2010
The Book of Negroes (or Someone Knows My Name as itfs called in the US) is fiction based on fact. The people are made up; the places and events are not. What I thought I knew about the slave trade, it turns out I could have written on a postage stamp. I knew that Africans were kidnapped and taken abroad to work as slaves for wealthy white people several hundred years ago and I thought I knew the hardships and poverty they suffered. Not so.

This book is narrated by Aminata Diallo, an African woman in her late 50s. Aminata tells the story of her life starting with how she was kinapped from her village in 1757, aged eleven. After watching her parents killed in front of her, she is yoked around the neck, stripped and made to march across jungle, forest and mountain for 3 months. Frightened, humiliated and separated from her loved ones, she also watched people she was tied to die along the way. Once the group had reached the shore they were bundled onto a ship that was to be their home for the next few months. People from all different parts of Africa were stuffed in like sardines in a can, naked, hungry, not understanding one anothers languages. Once in America, Aminata and her fellow ship-mates were sold at public auctions to slave owners.

Aminata continues her story through that life-changing journey through America and Canada. Hardship and humiliation are at the forefront of this book, but what I loved was that Hill allowed his characters to find love and friendship too; he gave characters real strength of human spirit and showed that even during the most heinus events and times, people are capable of the most selfless acts of kindness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece 18 April 2010
Easily the best book I've read in recent years. The story of Aminata Diallo is one which had me engrossed from page one as she takes you on her heartbreaking journey.
Unlike other fictional slave narratives I've read, this does not begin on the plantations but at the very start of the journey so many had to endure ... from abduction from a loving family, the long coffle walk to Bance Island, the horrors of the stinking slave ship and the market awaiting in South Carolina. Until reading this I had been unaware of the Black Loyalists who were so badly let down by the British and the life they had in Nova Scotia.
Aminata will move you to tears, Lawrence Hill has created a character with enormous depth and a book you will simply never forget. A hugely deserving winner of the Commonwealth prize this is a book everyone should read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars For fans of 12 Years a Slave
Wow, this book is an amazing read! Based on historical fact, this novel follows the journey of Amianta, a woman stolen from Africa when she was an eleven-year-old girl and sold... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Sibel Hodge
4.0 out of 5 stars It was a very good read and exceeded my expectations.
I guess, I did not know what I was expecting when I bought the book, but it did engross me. I would have rated it 5 star but there when periods when the pace of the narrative... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr Bob
4.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding read
Lawrence Hill’s “The Book Of Negroes” is an account of the fictional character of Aminata Diallo based around certain factual events. Read more
Published 2 months ago by andy
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable Read
This book is one of my favorite reads ever. It is told in the first person by an African woman, Amniato, who was snatched from her village when she was 11 years of age as she... Read more
Published 4 months ago by m lyons
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, although heartbreaking at times it's a brilliant read. So hard to believe humans could be so cruel to fellow humans in times not that long... Read more
Published 4 months ago by ellenb
5.0 out of 5 stars I could not put it down
This is one of the best books I have read this year. Beautifully written and such a wonderful story of strength and courage.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs Purl Hogan
5.0 out of 5 stars good read
I enjoyed reading this book, it kind of stories for autumn evenings, it's hard to put it away. Gives a hint of the dark side of history.
Published 6 months ago by beehive
4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality
I was advised to read this and was very happy with the price and the quality of the book. Looking forward to reading it on the airplane
Published 6 months ago by Peter. Graves
5.0 out of 5 stars apologies
Sorry for the previous rate I wrote last time but I received the book today, four days after the promised deadline, and I am loving it!!
Published 6 months ago by Anna Faludi
5.0 out of 5 stars What an education!
THIS book really lived up to its reputation for me. I loved it and could not put it down. I read it in two sittings and devoured every single word. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Susana J G
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