Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

1. First lines 2. Publisher: Serpent’s Tail  3. Cutting sugar in Trinidad [Public Domain] Source: Wikimedia Commons
Against a background of slavery in America, eccentric characters abound.

Summary: Washington Black is a slave at a sugar plantation in Barbados in the early 19th Century. The plantation owner’s brother Titch, an eccentric who is building an aerial machine, takes “Wash” as his manservant, and they run away from the plantation together, firstly to Virginia, then to the Arctic. Wash, now a free man, fends for himself after Titch disappears and he develops a friendship with a marine zoologist and his daughter.

“Gaius materialized from some unseen place, his uniform crisp as an English envelope.”

“Slavery is a moral stain against us. If anything will keep white man from their heaven, it is this.”

“You cannot know the true nature of another’s suffering.”

“The octopus arranged itself in a smatter of algae, its body hanging blackly before me. When I came forward to touch it, it sent out a surge of dark ink.” … “Then it shot off through the water, stopping short to radiate like a cloth set afire, its arms unfurling, and vibrating. There was something playful in the pause, as if it expected me to ink it back.”

~Quotes from “Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan
  • ” Moments of horrifying cruelty and violence sit alongside episodes of great tenderness and deep connection.” Judge’s comments, Man Booker Prize
  • “It’s not what readers who are wedded to realism might want, but Edugyan’s fiction always stays strong, beautiful and beguiling.” Full review: The Guardian


Extract online   …     Reading guide  …  Author’s website at British Council: Literature   …  and on Facebook


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