Washington Black – Esi Edugyan – Audio Book Review
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
We meet George Washington Black as a child, growing up as a slave on a farm in Barbados. His world is based around the woman who looks after him called Kit. She does everything she can for him and treats him as if he was her own. The slaves suffer great cruelty at the hands of their owner and George lives in near-constant fear. That is until the arrival of the brother of the farm owner, a man called Christopher “Titch” Wilde. He is a man of science and has a grand plan for his time on his brother’s farm. He is developing a wonderful new creation, something called a ‘cloud cutter’. To aid with his work, Titch asks for an assistant and George is chosen due to his size and weight.
The book moves quickly from a tale of poverty and hardship on the fields as a slave to something completely different. It is quite a surprise when this transformation occurs but it is a radical change in direction. We are told early on that our main protagonist was a free man by the age of 18, but we do not learn the circumstances until much later and it is quite a journey!
This is the fourth novel by Canadian writer Esi Edugyan. While her earlier work was well received (dating back to her first novel in 2004 called The Second Life of Samuel Tyne), this book has established her name as a writer. It was nominated for the Booker prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize last year.
It is a very unusual work and it is quite unexpected to tell such a fantastical tale that starts with the life of a slave. The reader is never quite sure what direction the story will go in next, such are the leaps in different directions. There is a Dickensian feel to the story, as the wealthy benefactor takes the child away from a life of poverty and it is very unusual for a modern novel to approach such topics.
The narrator of this audiobook is Dion Graham, who some may know from The Wire, but has also appeared in films such as Malcolm X and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He has a deep and powerful voice, which is quite suited for this tale of daring-do, although he does suffer with some of the female parts.