I’ve had this book almost since it came out in hardback in 1994 soon after it had won the Whitbread First Novel award but never got around to reading it. I picked it off the shelf this morning and an hour and a half later I’d finished it.
It is a really beautiful, compelling book. The story concerns a 100-year-old slave on a Virginian plantation in the early 19th Century and his relationship with the plantation owmer, the overseer and his own dynasty of slaves. I won’t say any more as the plot is revealed cleverly and with real poise through the length of the novel.
D’Aguiar was originally a poet and that grasp of language serves him well throughout the novel. The characters might be accused of being archetypes but I think instead I would say that the book uses simplicity to great effect. Recommended.