It’s been a hot moment since I’ve posted a book review on this little old blog. It’s not through lack of reading either. I posted almost an entire year ago my reasons for moving to a Kindle and I’ve stuck to it. I’m still gifted books though, and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan was one I received for my birthday last year.
Washington Black is the main protagonist and the book is named after him. It begins on a 19th-century sugar plantation in Barbados and is told through young Washington’s eyes. The story doesn’t really delve too much into the horrors of slavery or what really happened on the plantation. It takes up just the beginning few chapters. They focus on Wash’s close friendship with Big Kit, an older lady who took Wash under her wing and the absolute power the plantation owners have to unleash their cruelty. The book Washington Black (as opposed to the character) focuses beyond that, and what it is like as a freed slave, constantly aware that freedom could be revoked at any point.
They are prompted to escape after Titch’s cousin commits suicide and he knows Washington will be suspected. Sensing the danger the slave will be in if he was accused of such a crime, Titch takes it upon himself to free Washington by airship. They essentially start new lives as fugitives so to speak, and become good friends in the process. After escaping the plantation they end up in Virginia but Titch wants to continue the journey to the Arctic. Wash refuses to accompany him.
Eventually Titch abandons Wash and Wash is forced to continue life alone. He becomes a successful artist and scientist in his own right and even finds love. But he is constantly haunted by the shadow of his past and Titch’s disappearance.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan – My Thoughts
The book is well-paced and I was engrossed from the beginning, although the end was slightly laboured and it could have been 50 pages shorter. The world Edugyan created seemed fantastical at times due to the quirky but compelling characters. Through Washington’s narration we learn about the psychological damage of slavery, both to him and the characters he grew up with at the plantation, and the past friendships that still haunt him.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan was like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I’d recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction about race and culture.
What genre of book do you like to read?
I’ve set myself a reading challenge on my Goodreads account for 2021. Let’s connect on there!
*This post contains affiliate links