Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, 15 January 2021

38140077. sx318 , presented by Mariannick and Carla
Zoom meeting.We were 8 in the group.
This is a prize-winning and fascinating book, about the life of a black boy who starts as a brutalised slave and becomes a free man. It is written by an Afro-Canadian woman, and it’s important to recognise this, because it helps to understand the passion with which she writes.
It is cleverly written in what we found to be a fluid and entertaining pseudo early-19th Century (or ‘Gothic’) style that suits the era of the story, but did not please us all due to its fantastical feel. The breadth of research is astonishing, as the story mixes fact and fiction, encompasses natural history discoveries of the time, and ranges far and wide geographically, from the Caribbean to the Arctic, from Canada to England to North Africa.
The main theme in the book is the nature of freedom and the burden of it, i.e. having to make, and take responsibility for, one’s own choices. She did develop this theme successfully, but we felt that she had been overambitious in introducing other themes, and also characters, that were not always sufficiently developed.
We felt there was inconsistency in the writing and that she lost focus before the end of the book, relying on her beautiful prose to carry it through, almost as if the writing became an end in itself. Therefore it felt a little too long and wide-ranging. We found the ending to be mysterious.