"Washington Black", by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

This is both a gripping and ingenious tale that has all the elements of a 19th century adventure.” Washington Black” depicts slavery — unsparingly — but it’s about freedom. The narrative focuses on its main character, Washington Black, who tells his own story.

In 1830, 11 year old Washington Black is a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation and is watched over by an older woman named Big Kit. His master is shockingly cruel till one day the master’s brother comes for a visit. Wash’s life is changed for ever when eccentric Titch who is devoting himself to science takes Wash under his wings….a partnership, of sorts, is born.

As in her previous novels, the themes of genius and betrayal are revisited but in “Washington Black” this is far more complicated. The relationship between Wash and this white scientist and abolition advocate is complex. When Titch sends Wash across the globe on a journey mythic in scope….Ms. Edugyan transforms her story from horrors into a lush and exhilarating travelogue full of improbable events. 

This plot is aptly written within the constraint of the time period. The narrator is articulate, precise to the point of fussiness. The tone is melancholic and emotional. This is one adventure powered by the helium of fantasy…..quite unconventional. 

No doubts that Esi Edudyan being the Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize has penned a polished story filled with imagery but I was quite disappointed by its conclusion….