Review for Middle Passage by Charles Johnson
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Overall Rating: *** (3.4/5)
Amazon Rating: *** (3.9/5)
One Sentence Review: If you are looking for a moving, descriptive, historical fiction novel, this is for you, but if not, this will just be depressing and sort of stale.
Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave and irrepressible rogue, is lost in the underworld of 1830s New Orleans. Desperate to escape the city’s unscrupulous bill collectors and the pawing hands of a schoolteacher hellbent on marrying him, he jumps aboard the Republic, a slave ship en route to collect members of a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri. Thus begins a voyage of metaphysical horror and human atrocity, a journey which challenges our notions of freedom, fate and how we live together. Peopled with vivid and unforgettable characters, nimble in its interplay of comedy and serious ideas, this dazzling modern classic is a perfect blend of the picaresque tale, historical romance, sea yarn, slave narrative and philosophical allegory. (Summary from Amazon).
I had to read this for school, and to be honest, if you're not reading this for school as well, then maybe don't choose this book. It's historically informing and somewhat inspiring, but mostly it's depressing and gruesome. The characters are intricately developed, and their symbolic transformations aboard the ship are moving, but it wasn't magical or romantic in any way. Maybe it's because each sentence was a mile long (although very well written and descriptive), or the sorrowful theme of the book, or whatever it was, this just wasn't my favorite book. In school you would cover the thematic ideas of everyone being enslaved, and that's sort of interesting, albeit also a bit depressing, but that's pretty much it. So, ultimately, if you are into voyages on ships, or historical fiction, then give this one a go. If not, this isn't for you.
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