Top critical review
29 people found this helpful
Well-written account of the life of an ex-slave
on 2 May 2002
Olaudah Equiano provides an excellent account not just of his life as a slave, but also how an ex-slave was treated in the eighteenth century. He led an extremely eventful life, but had a luckier start than most because he was bought by owners who actually treated their slaves as humans rather than animals. It is made plain in this an other first hand accounts (eg Mary Prince) that these were the exception rather than the rule.
There is always the impression that once a slave obtained his freedom his troubles were over, but Equiano shows us that that was not in fact the case. In many instances he had goods stolen from him by white men in the West Indies and had no recourse to the law in those islands.
He had an adventurous life as a sailor, travelling at one stage on a British Arctic expedition in the bomb-ketch Racehorse, not realising that an obscure midshipman in the companion ship Carcass was to go on to be known as Admiral Lord Nelson!
I was riveted through much of the narrative, but it became turgid at the end as Equiano discovered religion in a big way and the final chapters largely consist of biblical extracts, prayers, and poems about his religious feelings. In his description of his attitude to Christianity, he became insufferable, with an attitude of superiority to his less Christian brethren and an overwhelming concern for the fate of his immortal soul.
I would rate this book more highly if it were not for the final chapters which I consider tedious to all but the extremely religious. Nevertheless, the book is enjoyable and highly educational. I would recommend it to the private reader and as a text for a school history class.