The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

I had wanted to read this book for a while as I had heard about it since moving to Canada and it was also made into a tv series here. Most people I’ve mentioned the book to at home never heard of it, but I highly recommend it.

It’s 1802 and Animata, now an old woman, sits down to write the story of her life, both for herself and to help the Abolitionists in London. She was abducted from her small village in Africa at age eleven and sold into slavery. For the rest of her she longs for only one thing – to find her way back to Africa. This harrowing tale of her life and the horrors she lives through is captivating and sobering. Although it’s a fiction, and we are following a life of a fictional character, its historical fiction and we know that the things that happened to Animata happened to real people and this makes it all the more emotional. Animata’s character captivated me early on and for the remainder of the book I was emotionally involved, I was on tenterhooks waiting to see what would become of Animata and like her, I wanted nothing more than her to find her way back to Africa.

I also found this book really interesting and educational because I had very little knowledge of Africans going to Nova Scotia in the 1700’s. These Africans were considered Loyalists, and were brought to Nova Scotia by the British at the end of the American revolution. The Africans who travelled to Nova Scotia in search of freedom, had their names recorded in a registry of sorts, which was called “The Book of Negroes”, hence the name of the book. Hill clearly did his research and this is evident by his copious notes on research, further reading and acknowledgements at the end of the book. The book has made me want to read more about this era, and about the real Book of Negroes.

Although some parts of the story are improbable and somewhat farfetched, it didn’t matter because I loved the book and the writing enough to overlook that. The story is gripping and the writing superb. I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5 and I recommend that everyone read it!