Summary: I am not sure how to summarize this book.
Washington Black was on a number of best books of 2018. It finally got to be my turn from the library this past week and I quickly read it. I am still not sure what I think of it frankly.
Washington Black is a young slave boy working the fields with his caregiver Kit in the sugar cane fields of Barbados in the 1830s. Seemingly at random, they are ordered into the master’s home to serve the relatively new master and his brother’s dinner. That chance led to Washington Black being conscripted into working for the master’s visiting scientist brother, Christopher (Titch). Titch is a quiet abolitionist, but still takes advantage of the slave labor he has access to and uses the wealth of the family (from slaves) for his scientific investigations. Over a short period of time, Washington (Wash) learns to read and more importantly with his access to pencil and paper and books he discovers that he has a talent for drawing. Titch eventually discovers this and their relationship, while still Master and Slave becomes more complicated.
Due to a plot detail, the two of them leave the island and so starts the story of the next 10 years of Wash’s life. There is loneliness, isolation, a semblance of freedom, romance and love. But also a lot of really strange random events that are pieced together to make up the story.
There is a lot of interesting insights into what slavery and white supremacy meant in the world of the 1830-40s. I think the portrayal of the semi-Abolitionist Titch, as wanting to end slavery, but not really be sure about equality is accurate to the history as I have read it. But while I enjoyed the book and I will look for additional books by Esi Edugyan, I think this is one that may have been over hyped. It is interesting, but I am not sure it is really top tier. It has a bit of a feel of The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. Both were about very special boys of about the same age that were ‘freed’ but still attached to their abolitions saviors in a not quite slavery but not quite freedom relationship. I saw someone else suggest that this was like Colson Whiteheads’ Underground Railroad, which I understand, but wouldn’t be my first comparison.
I just am not sure if the plot points are really important as spoilers or not, so I am not going to discuss them. I was not a fan of the end. The pressing concern of the end of the book, felt to me a bit like what I didn’t like about Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.
It has been a little while since I have really loved a fiction book. I have been reading a lot of solid fiction, books that are worth reading and I am glad I read, but also books that have not completely grabbed me as some books do.