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Summary

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black - an 11-year-old field slave - finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. The eccentric Christopher 'Titch' Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him.  

Titch's idealistic plans are soon shattered, and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape the island together, but then then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible.  

From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness and mystery of life. Inspired by a true story, Washington Black is the extraordinary tale of a world destroyed and made whole again.

©2018 Ideas of March Inc. (P)2018 Random House Audio

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Slave's-eye worldview, a novel idea.

This put me in mind of, of course Twelve Years a Slave, but also Mark Twain and other books of that era. I saw it longlisted for the Man Booker and liked the sound of it, getting a copy of the Audible version.

Washington Black is a child slave in Barbados when he is selected to work for one of the two owner brothers. It is to change his life when he discovers his master is a scientist in need of a research assistant. His education and work will lift him from the sugar fields to a life that takes in half the globe, as he looks on it all from the point of view of a slave, a youth.

This started brilliantly, I loved Washington's character and seeing his evolution from scared boy to educated and appreciated young man, albeit still a slave. The story takes many turns, and I did feel a little exasperated and felt it lost direction. I found myself losing concentration at times towards the end and having to backtrack.

The style mimics fairly well a novel of the period, though in a less formal way, making it easier for modern audiences to listen/read without feeling overwhelmed with old-fashioned stylistic flourishes and language.

There are some emotive parts, some shocks, twists, but I did prefer the first half to the second.

An unusual subject, quite refreshing. I may have preferred this on paper as I did find myself drifting listening to the Audible version, though the narrator was clear and made a good 'Wash'.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.