The Book of Negroes sets out the life story of Aminata Diallo, born in West Africa, in 1745. Kidnapped at age 11 by slavers, Aminata survives the long journey to America through a combination of luck and the use of midwifery skills she learned from her mother. In South Carolina she works at an indigo plantation where she learns to read and write English. She later becomes secretary to a customs inspector and travels with him to New York City where she escapes during the chaotic lead up to the American Revolution. Aminata then works for the British government registering blacks who promise to fight for the British. She eventually travels to Nova Scotia and back to Britain and West Africa. Throughout the horror and hardship of her life, she remains an indomitable spirit who works to better the lives of her fellow slaves.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
The universal acclaim for this novel was echoed by our group. We were fascinated by the storytelling, the obviously careful research, and the inspiring heroine. It was a very difficult book to put down. We were intrigued by the role Canadians played in the persecution of the slaves looking for a better life -(we like to think that Canada was the good guy at this point in history, but clearly this was not the case). We also found that since Aminata tells the story from the perspective of a ripe old age we were able to keep reading through the harrowing events because we knew she would survive and thrive in the future. Recommended.