Customer Reviews


63 Reviews
5 star:
 (45)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling out my name
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...
Published on 6 Feb 2009 by Friederike Knabe

versus
19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wider view of history
I have read some previews suggesting that The Book of Negroes is based on a true story, but I heard an interview with the writer on BBC Worldservice and it is categorically NOT true - the book is based on research, but not a true story.

Lawrence Hill's most significant achievement in The Book of Negroes is to bring to 21st century consciousness a sector of...
Published on 18 Oct 2008 by x-bout reviews


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling out my name, 6 Feb 2009
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Hardcover)
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. Written in the best African story-telling tradition, it addresses readers directly, absorbing us completely into characters, times and places of the struggle for survival and eventual freedom.

Nurtured by loving parents in rural Mali, Aminata, unusual for the time, was educated in reading and the Qur'an by her father and learned the skill of "catching babies" from her midwife mother. Hill's familiarity with places and cultures of different peoples in West Africa gives the depiction of village life and tradition vivacity and veracity. At age eleven, during a raid on the village, the young girl is seized by African slavers and forced to join many others on the long, hard road into slavery. The memory of her parents, killed during the attack, gives her strength and guidance throughout her ordeal. Her beauty and intelligence combined with her midwifery skills, help her to stay alive during the dangerous passage to North America and for the next decades, sold as property to different more or less abuse owners.

Aminata's portrayal of survival in the midst of so many who perish, of violence and misery, but also of friendships found and lost, as well as love and family, evokes a rainbow of emotions in the reader - from despair and sadness to delight and joy. Hill's talent placing himself into the mind of his heroine is admirable. Through her he has created a captivating panoramic life story with authentic characters. Not only is the heroine of the novel a wonderfully vibrant and endearing personality, she is surrounded by many, equally believable, individuals.

Aminata's life voyage takes her through many dramatic turns of fate to freedom and back into Africa. During the American War for Independence, she finds herself on the British side and is sent, as a freed slave, to Nova Scotia with the promise for a better life. She enters her name in the historic "Book of Negroes", a British military ledger that recorded the names and details of some 3,000 black Loyalists being allowed to leave the American territory for Shelburne Harbour. Hope, however, turns into gloom and despair. The first race riots in North America break out in Shelburne. Birchtown, the black settlement, is ransacked and many inhabitants are killed. Betrayed by some, but supported by others, Aminata survives and finally fulfils her dream of returning "home" as one of the "adventurers" of the Sierra Leone resettlement program, sponsored by British abolitionists. She has come full circle but not quite in the way she had dreamt. Asked by abolitionist politicians in London to tell her story as a genuine African voice to promote their cause, Aminata takes on a final new role.

Hill's novel brings many factual historical strands together, introducing a range of contemporary personalities accurately into the storyline. Together he transforms them into a stunning and wide reaching panorama of human suffering, endurance and victory. Rich in authentic detail yet fluid in its style and tone, He has brought memorable characters to life that illustrate the strengths of the human spirit. [Friederike Knabe]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Compelling Read, 18 Mar 2009
By 
Malteser (Hampshire, U.K.) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 18 April 2010
By 
Mrs. A. Johnstone (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone Knows My Name / The Book of Negroes, 31 Mar 2009
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This was a very readable account of the sufferings and abuse of slaves taken from Africa in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Their struggles were represented by Aminata Diallo who we meet at the beginning of the book as an old woman helping the abolitionists fight for the termination of slave importation to Britain.
In order to support the cause Aminata (known as Meena) writes her life story and it is this account that we read in the succeeding pages.

She was abducted from her villiage in the interior of Africa, where Whites, or Toubabu, had never been seen but were widely feared. At the age of eleven she was forced to walk for 3 months to reach the coast where the slave ships waited. She was branded with the name of her owner and forced on board a ship whose stench could be smelt for miles away.

In America Meena worked on an indigo plantation, but also used the skills she'd learned from her mother, a midwife. She learned the use of medicinal herbs through Georgia, who took her in and nursed her to health after the arduous crossing. She also learned to read from the overseer, who noticed a spark in her. Reading was strongly forbidden amongst the slaves and had to be done in secret.

From here, circumstances took her to Charlestown, New York and on to Nova Scotia in Canada where freed slaves who had fought for the British were offered a 'new life'. Finally the oportunity come to return to Africa, occupying an area of Sierra Leone known as Freetown. Many of those settling down here had never set foot on African soil; they had been born under slavery in foreign lands.

The book is filled with details of the struggle of slaves at this time and the apalling way that they were often treated, but it also glows with joyous times and friendships, sharing and hope.

And there was a wonderful quote from Jonathan Swift, writing about the failings of the cartographers of Africa who had no idea what was in the interior of the country:
So geographers, in Afric-maps
With savage-pictures fill their gaps
And o'er uninhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.

Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable journey, 22 Jun 2010
By 
Boof (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Paperback)
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.

What I found most shocking in the whole book was that this girl realizes shefs amongst people who have no idea who she has no feelings, no need for dignity, and they have no understanding of the land she was forced to leave. Most people canft pronounce her name and the slave owners donft even care to try, calling african women Mary to keep things simple.

There were many surprising aspects to this book for me and as well as learning huge amounts about things I thought I already knew about the African slave trade but didnft, but also it shines a spotlight on almost every nation. The people who captured Aminata in the first place and killed her parents were fellow Africans,the Americans in New York (where Aminata is taken to later in the book) claim to be the slaves of the British (without a hint of irony). Books like this are so important to us and to future generations, lest we should forget.

The Book of Negroes is written in a simple and gentle way that, despite its almost matter-of-fact style, packs a real punch. Aminata is a great narrator and, even though she is fictional (which I admit to sometimes forgettig) she has such an important role to play in brining this story to life.

Highly recommended
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful story of one woman's journey as a slave and her astonishing drive and determination., 2 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Paperback)
This is a book that personalises the horrific history of the slave trade through the eyes of an inspirational, driven and larger than life character. I found myself being educated on the origins of the slave trade - I never knew that it began with Africans enslaving other Africans - and the role of the US and the UK in the horrors that followed. It's hard in 2011 to believe that so many people were treated worse than animals but this novel brings this to life in a wonderfully readable and descriptive manner. The Book of Negroes doesn't preach but it's remarkably easy to become enraged at what these people had to endure in order to make money for others.

But it is all told by way of one woman's story making the whole thing easy to follow and allows one to unravel the complicated history of slavery by means of a touching and vivid narrative. While the protagonist is one of fiction all the events are unfortunately real.

I learned so much about Africa, the US, Canada and ultimately the amazing story of the foundation of the capital of Sierra Leon, Freetown. All in all, a page turning, riveting and touching story.

I found myself in a former slave fort on the coast of Ghana shortly after reading this book and found that experience all the more moving after reading The Book of Negroes. It's so difficult in modern times to try to comprehend the lives of those who have gone before us - this novel succeeds enormously in bringing the tragic experiences of the African people to a level that you can begin to start to attempt to comprehend.

A beautiful, touching gem of a book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unflawed heroine, 30 May 2010
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Paperback)
I found this enjoyable enough, we follow Aminata from the African plains ; to the slave ships, the US plantations and eventually to London , this was often shocking and pulled no punches about conditions for slaves particularly on the ships.
But Aminata for me was just too perfect, where were her flaws? She never seemed quite real to me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 12 Sep 2009
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Book of Negroes (Hardcover)
Although The Book of Negroes is a work of fiction, the amount of research done is tremendous, Lawrence Hill acknowledges that he has used real people as the basis for many of the characters within the story and that many of the events did actually happen.

The historical events retold are engrossing but the characterisation of Aminata just adds to the drama and the realism of the story. Aminata, or Meena as she is known, triumphed throughout her life. She educated herself and went on to teach other Negroes to read and to write, she learns many languages and finally is able to write her autobiography so that generations to come will know just how badly the enslaved people were treated.

Most of us know about how African people were taken from their homelands and enslaved by White Americans and English, this novel tells of the real brutality of what happened to them. It is shocking and heartbreaking in places, but it is also full of hope and achievement. A really outstanding read that has educated me and will stay in my mind for a long time to come.

The Book of Negroes is published in America under the title Someone Knows My Name - the Americans would not accept the word Negroe in the title.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down!, 14 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Loved this book!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional roller coaster ride.., 7 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I’m a little lost for words at the moment. I think I have just finished the best book I have ever read so far.

When my friend first recommend the book to me I did have my reservations as I wasn’t sure whether it would be my cup of tea as it is about black slavery and bound to be very historical and political which is very different from the fluffy romantic stuff I usually read!

From the very first pages I knew this was going to be an amazing read and I would be taken on a journey. Indeed I was and I feel shattered just reading it!

The story centres around a young woman, Aminata Diallo and her family, who is brought to London, England, in 1802, by abolitionists who are petitioning to end the slave trade. While she is there she is asked to write an account of her life story which included being abducted from her family at age 11, seeing the death of her mother and father, and being marched in a coffle of captives to the coast along with others from her village. Aminata manages to survive the passage to America because she is able to apply the knowledge and skills passed on to her by her parents, especially the ability to “catch” (i.e., deliver) babies and to understand some African languages. I don’t want to give too much away is it is a book everyone should read.

The imagery in the book is just stupendous. I could picture every track she walked on, the ship she sailed on and the disgusting conditions she and her fellow slaves were made to endure. The book just flows easily from one chapter to the next and not once did I ever feel lost. I was there the whole way.

The book is also home to some wonderful quotes that have really struck a cord with me.

“Beauty comes and goes. Strength, you keep forever”

“That, I decided, was what it meant to be a slave: your past didn’t matter; in the present you were invisible and you had no claim on the future” imagine that as your outlook on life? It’s so upsetting to read.

‘It doesn’t matter what we call your soul, what matters is where it travels and who uplifts it’

The book is full of them but I especially love the last one. As long as you keep your strength and your faith the rest will sort itself out. It’s all about inner beauty which Aminata clearly displays throughout the book. A fantastic read that won't disappoint!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Book of Negroes
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (Paperback - 1 April 2010)
£6.39
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews