by Bernardine Evaristo
Historical Fiction, Fantasy
What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today? We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.
Continuing my exploration of Evaristo’s back catalogue, we are onto Blonde Roots. Evaristo is without a doubt one of my favourite authors I’ve discovered this year and I’m so happy to have been able to work my way through her novels this year so I was excited for this one – however, I have to admit it was the first one that let me down!
In the style of the iconic Noughts & Crosses, Blonde Roots is an emotional story of Doris, who is a slave in a world where Black people are seen as superior and white people their slaves. For me this started off really exciting because it had such a gripping hook, and I knew what I was getting myself into when an author like Evaristo tackled a concept such as this – a heartfelt, tender, emotional story.
And that I did. And although I enjoyed reading this novel mainly because of Evaristo’s stunning and lyrical prose, and because of her signature humour that makes me laugh out loud, there was something about this that fell flat for me. In comparison to the incredible Girl, Woman, Other or the emotional rollercoaster of The Emperor’s Babe, this book just doesn’t come close. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, because I actually think that’s impossible when it comes to a writer such as Evaristo, but I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with her other novels I’ve read. I suppose there always has to be one least favourite, right?
I just didn’t connect to Doris in the way I wanted to and also I really didn’t like the middle part – I thought it was so unnecessary to go fifty or so pages from the slaveowner’s perspective, but hey, maybe that’s just me!
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts if so? Let me know in the comments below!