Top positive review
Very powerful story
on 23 April 2017
As a story, Roots really draws you in. It's an emotional tale of man ripped from his country and his family and brought to America as a slave. I was really drawn to the character of Kunta Kinta and Alex Haley has written an exciting, sometimes tragic, sometimes heartwarming, story of his family ancestors. I wanted the book to be true, but from the first few pages, I began to get suspicious that the book couldn't possible be all true. How could the dialogue be so specific if Haley never mentions that he found any diaries or that sort of thing? He obviously couldn't, as the African tribes didn't write diaries. I checked it up on Wikipedia and sure enough I discovered that much of Roots is made up. While the basic story is based on Alex Haley's family history, the rest is really fiction. For me, this was hugely disappointing. Had the book been presented as historical fiction, more like Little House on the Prairie, (also based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's life), I think I would have preferred it, than to be mislead to believe that the whole story is true. Obviously, the book is still powerful. While many of the details may have been created by the author, the experience of Kunta Kinte and the other characters was definitely an experience that many Black Americans shared as slaves in the Old South. But knowing it is supposed to be true and it really isn't, is a bit annoying.
Another thing that really annoyed me, was Haley's way of indicating what was happening in the wider world at the time, his way of presenting all the great historical moments (like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, etc...) This dialogue, where characters would tell what news they had heard or read, was obvioulsy contrived. No slaves (or anyone at that time, actually) would have spoken about those events the way Haley has them spoken about. It sounds rediculous.
And it seems that Haley didn't do his research well here, either, but rather relied on what he had learned in high school, no matter how inaccrate. For instance, in the book the slaves are all talking about how Lincoln (before he is elected President) is going to free them. But anyone with a little knowledge of Civil War history, knows that Lincoln never said such a thing. He had no intention of freeing slaves and was hardly an abolitionist. There were other Presidential canditates who were much more likely to free the slaves. If the slaves had their hopes on anyone, it would have been Seward or Chase, not Lincoln. Lincoln was a dark horse when he was elected at the Republican convention. He was hardly known outside of Illinois. I doubt any slaves were speaking about him the way they did in this book. It doesn't make sense. And there are many other mistakes, as well. It is very poor history.
But no matter these points, at the end of the day, it is a great story. I couldn't put it down. The parts that take place before the Civil War are much more detailed and better written, then the parts after. Unfortunate really, as I would have liked to know more about his family's experience during reconstruction, but nonetheless, I was hooked, and was really sad to see the story end. For anyone who wants to learn about the Negro experience in America, this book is a must read. I would definitely recommend.