The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar

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.

46 Replies to “The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar”

  1. I read The Longest Memory for a VCE text response. I found it was an extremely captivating and emotional story which had me in tears several times. I highly recommend The Longest Memory as a must read novel.

  2. I found the longest memory at time plain boring and dull. It read like a series of biographies instead of a novel, similer to Maloufs remembering babylon. I don’t recomend this book if you want a decent plot, try spot goes to the farm instead.

  3. I read this book for a school project. At first I felt it a chore to read but towords the end I got into it. As I was summarising the book this afternoon I realised how well written it was and once I understood the plot it was a very emotional piece. Read it a second time and it will affect you differently.

  4. I am reading this book for school and am finding it a little hard to understand. But from what i am reading it seems like a culturally fantastic book.

  5. i am currently studying this book in school for my VCE text responce and i’ve found it to be a very powerful and moving novel. it has so many different themes and issues, and i found it so interesting the way the author (D’Aguair) wrote the chapters in chains of voices to get a different angle to the story. i would reccomend this book to anyone!!

  6. WeRe sTuDyInG ThIs BoOk aTm..thiS BoOk iS rEaLlY CoNfUsInG aT ThE StArT.ThE BoOk Is rEaLlY GoOd n I reCoMeNd It tO AnYoNe!!!

  7. I am currently in the third chapter of The Longest Memory (Sanders Senior) and i’m not really understanding it. I don’t understand who wrote the entrys and why. If someone could respond to this and help me out I would really appriciate it because i’m writing on the author and his writings. Thanks!

  8. If anyone can help me with this please respond soon so I can continue working on my paper. Thanks!

  9. Hi. I’ve read ‘The Longest Memory’ about four times, because it’s required for the entrance examination in English philology. It’s certainly
    a very ambiguous piece of work, and therefore I’d be extremely happy to go through all the essays and evaluations available. In case you know some URLs, please paste them here. THanks!

  10. Currently studying T.E.E english.
    I’ve read the book twice and found that the book was full of very powerful language describing the poor treatment of slaves and the hardships in their lives, definitely a good book to do an essay on… as i have now done two..

  11. Reading Longest Memory was okay. But i reckon Fred stuffed it up a bit. If you read page 37 and 85 you would get confused.

  12. i admire the way d’aguiar assembled the story through the eyes of difference characters. the structure of the book is definitely significant. though the identities of the characters is confusing at first, once the initial confusion is all sorted out the book is relatively easy to read and themes are easy to pick out. a very good book to explore, analyse, and write essays on.

  13. I’m not supid, but this book was boring and confusing. Mostly boring. I’m studying it for VCE and I have an exam on it tomorrow. Please, walk past this book in Angus and Robinson’s.

  14. ive read this book…and its quite interesting to find out how people, blacks were treated back then. it gives a impression of the ‘old days’. some book.
    can anyone tell me some useful links for Longest Memory..
    -the future is just more of the past waiting to happen

  15. I find it extremely tough to understand the book in the same level of view as teachers who are teaching VCE. I mean, they can suggest things but they can just cut students off for whatever reason they disagree at. The book itself has quite some difficulties understanding, sometimes I even get mixed up with the names (if I’m not concentrating). If you can focus well, and is a non-easily-distracted person you will probably think this book is pretty decent.

  16. im studying this book for my exams and it is quite simple to read with complex issues dealt within it. Interesting how D’Aguiar shows the stories through different perspectives.

  17. i found the book good, but yes confusing. once you understand it, it is easy to write essays on as it jammed packed full of values and attitudes of freds own in his time and those of the early 1800s. He has written it in this confusing way on purpose to peruade most readers to aggree with his own personal values on this matter. analyse it!!

  18. i researched this novel “the longest memory” a few months ago and now i have to do it for T.E.E. as a print comment. in term i have read parts of the book countless times, especially Sanders Senior and other characters chapters for the ability to view their inner thoughts through the internal monologue style of righting. if you can read complicated texts, i recomend this one.

  19. This is a truly amazing and moving novel. D’Aguiar has written this so well that you simply cannot completely condemn or commend any character.

  20. This book had me in tears, im just joking, its stupid and i do not recommened it…well i do, if you like englsih, you c, i dont, thats why im not recommending it, its just 1 of the worse books ever written. He should write for kids instead, casue hes just an idiot. Who really cares about some guy thats 80 yrs old n has 134 grand kids, good on him, means hes had sex heaps, thats all. Catch ya

  21. I hated all the books I did at school too (until A-level when I really liked ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’). I’m sure they weren’t all terrible though. I’m not sure what the answer to this problem is.

  22. its a really bad book to be studying at school its a book that outs you to sleep and is a real torture to have to work about. its a load of crud for teenagers to hav to do at school

  23. What book would you suggest would be better to study? Or do you think that studying books at all is a mistake? I remember being very bored by a wide selection of books at school. Everything from ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ and ‘The Hobbit’ to ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘Macbeth’. I’m fairly sure ALL of those are actually good books, or at least not as terrible as I thought they were. I did like ‘The Wave’, and a few of my A-level (over 16) books, but that was about it.

  24. heyy ppl…well we have finished reading The Longest Memory in class. the teacher actually read it aloud to the class which made it A LOT easier to understand. she explained each chapter to us which was great. we suggest that all of you recomend this idea to your teachers. love always samii and sezz x0x0x0

  25. This novel is confusing at first but i really admire fred D’aguiar’s writing techniques

  26. The novel has an interesting issue,the only problem was that because we had each characters point of view it was so repetative and redundant,this style of writting is only turns out to be boring.

  27. I just finished reading this book for Literature. I must say I absolutely loved it and I would read it again and again. The writing was fantastic, unfortunately I could not always control the tears building up in my eyes! The book covers so many different point of views and therefore changes the percpective of the situation once another view is told. After the second reading you understand little links made in the text, for e.g why Chapel ran away, so I definitely encourage you to read the book twice. The treatment of negroes and how they are represented is a key factor in “The Longest Memory” with it linking to every single chapter. They are slaves because of their colour, they are not allowed to read or write due to being a slave, white and black are not allowed to be seen together therefore restricting Lydia and Chapel’s relationship etc etc. Everyones ideas on this book will vary along with the message its delivering as its a book that enables different view points because it covers so many themes (whether the whip should be acceptable, punishment on slaves, why should negroes be slaves?, rape.. the list goes on). Its not a straight forward easy text but it’ll come to you after a while, trust me things start to make sense after the first chapter!

  28. wow that was such an interesting book…it really touched my heart
    to the point that i cried. everyone need to know about the past to live
    right in the future!!! GO EQUALITY!!

  29. why can’t guys nowadays who are whitechapel’s age
    still be alive. there aren’t any good guys around anymore!
    if only he were still aliive…i would so go for him!!!

  30. OH MY GOSH! that book was so touching, i couldn’t pick it up without my eyes filling with tears and my heart sinking with the feeling of hopelessness i felt for most of the characters, especially chapel. Oh, such love he and lydia felt for each other, i can’t even describe in words how i yearn for a deep and fullfilling relationship like they had. oh, i need a man\woman

  31. Seems likely. It’s basically impossible to like a book you are made to study when you are 15 years old, in my opinion. Someone somewhere has obviously made this a “set text” on some American high school cirriculum.

  32. Im an Aussie whom is 15 and I actually enjoyed this book. And im being genuine.

  33. This is a good book, which is why I don’t like studying it. Studying books always spoils them imo. I did like how cryptic the book was, it lets you put your own interpretation into what it actually means. But reading theis boook over and over and over is going to make me hate it. I wish I didn’t have to hate the book, but it is inevitable.

  34. I agree with George. Study the book takes out all the fun of reading it. It makes reading it feel like a chore when it shouldn’t be. You should be reading for your own enjoyment and that’s hard to do when you are required to answer a sheet of questions or make a speech on it later.

  35. This bock was so effin borin!! i read2 pages and nearly fell asleep! u guys must hve nothing better to do than actually finish the story off!! what the hell is wrong with you people! i had to read it for school and do an essay on it. i didnt do so’s shouldnt tell u what to read as different people enjoy different things.they should give us at least two or three books to chose from..because people arent going to do good essays if they dont enjoy the book…..(((( peace)))

  36. Thank you for your erstwhile contribution yehyur.

    I will simply remark that I see some contradiction between your question: “what the hell is wrong with you people” and your assertion that “different people enjoy different things”.

    Peace, likewise.

  37. Janey, wouldn’t the plantation be the Whitechapel plantation? As the owner is whitechapel.. That’s my logic anyways

  38. i am reading this book for my vce class i finding it very interesting but on other hand it’s emotional i recommend you to should read this story it’s a great book!!!

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