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on 18 December 2009
This penguin edition is a recent full critical edition - and therefore the best, I think, - of the current versions of Equiano's Interesting Narrative. It is edited by Vincent Carretta who in a later monograph (Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-made Man) questions the author's claim to have been born and kidnapped in Africa and uses documentary evidence to suggest he might have been born instead in the Caribbean islands.
Equiano's turning to Evangelicalism undoubtedly makes the latter part of the book a more difficult read for those who are less interested in the wider history of the 18thC English-speaking world. But this part of the narrative is perhaps the most fascinating because it meshes so well with other 'conversion' narratives of the day (The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England) and helps to place Equiano in the English world of William Wilberforce and John Newton and so to explain why he would come to write such a book in the first place. For this reason, to my mind, no history of England which deals with the latter half of the eighteenth Century should ignore this book.
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on 31 August 2014
A must read to understand the ravages of slavery, the differences between the African slave system and Euro-American chattel slave system, and how the prospect of gain can suppress the underlying morals of humanity. Thank you Olaudah Equiano for leaving us this brilliantly written testimony.
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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.
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on 1 November 2006
Whilst this was a fascinating book, and the authors account vivid, I feel that it lacked its focus towards the end due to his conversion to Christianity. It seemed to make the author forget his horrors and at some parts he was almost thankful to have been a slave because he found God!! I feel this was probably a tactical approach to make readers at the time favour his story and help to abolish slavery, but i felt that it distracted from what it was really about which was the horrors of slavery. I would have loved to seen what became of him, as I felt the book ended rather abruptly. In particular his marriage to a white lady at that period in time. However, it was a good read and a must for all those interested in that period in history. Another book to read would be about Mary Prince, which I feel is more frank.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 August 2014
This book gripped me from the outset and read like a thriller from page 1. You don't need to be interested in the subject matter or even in history to enjoy this incredible story. I have no idea how much the author embroidered upon the truth (I don't think anyone does) but it reads most convincingly and possibly depicts a larger truth because of that. A must read.
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on 25 December 2006
A seminal work, and a highly accessible one. The narrative covers the author's life from his kidnapping in west Africa at an early age, through is experiences as a slave-commodity, to his settlement in England as a free human being.
Although he could be accused of egotism in calling the account of his life 'The Interesting Narrative' this description is well merited. More than this though, this is a carefully paced political pamphlet in the struggle against the slave trade and against slavery itself. Speaking in the most engaging of voices (Equiano is, one feels, a man whose company in coffee house or tavern would be sought after; he comes across as a likeable man) we are taken through the arguments around slavery, but always in a very human dimension i.e. we become aware of the personal cost of slavery and not only of it as a political issue. He takes into account the then current view that a benevolent owner is possible, then firmly knocks that half-way view on the head by exposing slavery in any form as against all that is civilised.
The Narrative can be read on a number of levels: anti-slavery tract; adventure story; Black history; naval history; social history. Incidentally, as a white Englishman I should not like to see this Narrative parcelled up and pigeon-holed as exclusively Black History; this is part of my history as an Englishman and should be on the school national curriculum. The anti-slavery movement was the first recognisably modern political pressure grouping, in that it comprised politicians (Wilberforce etc), supporters (Wedgwood etc), and those who were most directly affected by it (slaves and former slaves). Their alliance held strongly enough and long enough for anti-slavery laws to be passed, albeit over an agonisingly long period. This text is central to that struggle, not least by reminding us that the well-fed Wilberforce was only the Establishment tip of the iceberg, and that alongside such Establishment figures was a vocal, intelligent body of former slaves who had risen against the most formidable odds to positions of influence.

My only reservation about this Penguin edition relates to the notes at the end. For a number of years now, Penguin have been publishing editions (and indeed, translations) for English speakers on the premise that addressing the lowest common denominator (American readers) will satisfy everyone. This results in some deeply patronising explanations of the blindingly obvious for example does an adult really need to be told:
Plantain: a type of banana
Stout: strong or powerful
Teneriffe: largest of the Canary Islands
...and so on.
As ever with notes prepared by an apparently American academic, I would urge readers to ignore the notes and just read the Narrative itself.
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on 5 June 2013
Perhaps one of the greatest Black Britons, Equiano provides a wholesome view of the slate trade. A must read for those in the history of the slave trade/18th century England.
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on 16 April 2007
This is a great book, and is a great story.

It is strong most of the way through, until he gets a bit too religious and starts preaching his religious philiosphy.

It is extremely clear and easy to read, and the story keeps moving at a swift pace.

Give the intro a miss though, and dive straight into Olaudah's book.
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on 21 December 2012
Just what I wanted.
It was good to look through this and share the writing with friends.
Found it very interesting and informative.
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on 31 December 2013
Authenticated and a release of actual historical experience an example to be cherished and a record of truculence and an enduring
legacy
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