Plot: Aminata grew up in the village of Bayo, daughter of a jeweler and a midwife, until she was stolen away by slavers when she was 11 years old. She is taken to the new world and sold to the highest bidder. A difficult life full of heartbreak, death and thankless work followed. But at the end of her life, she finds herself in London where she writes the story of her life in order to stop the slave trade once and for all.
I first bought this book in 2009 (I was still in library school!) and got it autographed by Hill. I’ve been meaning to read it ever since but never got around to it. I’m glad I finally did. I have been in a bit of a reading slump, you may have noticed, but once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. I needed something this good to get me back into the swing of things.
This is not an easy novel: it deals with violence, cruelty, rape, loss and all the pain and loss of dignity involved in slavery. And Hill doesn’t pull any punches. But his writing is beautiful, rich and evocative; I was completely caught up in the – often disturbing – world of the novel.
Every time I have sailed the seas, I have had the sense of gliding over the unburied. p.7
Aminata is an amazing character to follow. She is intelligent and insightful with a great love for the written word. The story is told in her words, with complete honesty, even during the times when she is not so brave, when she is terrified or unable to help those suffering around her. She felt like a real person to me.
At the end, Hill offers a lot of resources for those who’d like to learn more about the slave trade and the book of negroes and explains the divergences he made from history.
If you liked this novel – and I’d be very surprised if you didn’t – also check out the Octavian Nothing series.