Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blonde Roots

Blonde Roots
by Bernardine Evaristo
288 pages
Riverhead Hardcover
January 2009

The premise is that back in the day of slavery ships and wealthy slave owners, the roles were reversed. African's owned lands in Ambrosia where European indentured servants were transported (yes, middle passage and all). Europeans take on the exact role that Africans really did have in history. They are viewed as being dumb, ugly, savage-like, and not having human ties to their offspring.

Blonde Roots follows one Englishwoman (Doris) who is kidnapped from her family of cabbage farmers while playing outside with her siblings. She is taken to Ambrosia and only dreams of getting back home. She is torn from her family and displaced into slavery and the bonds and ties that brings. Half way through the book (or part way) we hear the story for a little while from the perspective of the slave owner, Bwana and then back to Doris, the slave for the conclusion.

Bernardine Evaristo wrote this portrayal in a modern way, using modern slang and things that would not have existed at all then, which is acutally something I partially appreciated. The writing is interesting, and the concept is stunning. The idea of the novel is strong, but in my opinion not well executed. I felt it horribly lacking in power. I never felt connected to Doris, the other slaves or the slave owners...and I wanted that! I didn't care really if they even made it that is how much I just felt her writing fell flat thus not allowing me to form emotional bonds with the characters.

One thing that I did find interesting is that over and over I had to remind myself that the slaves where Europeans! Whenever I am reading a book I have an image in my mind of the characters and what is happening. In Blonde Roots I kept realising that in my mind's eye I kept reversing the roles to the way that they actually were. I felt bad at first that I kept switching it back and didn't know if that would make me look horrid to confess that on here. I thought about it and really came to understand that my mind just was stuck in a rut, as it is really hard for me to imagine the roles reversed! And yet, that is the way it could have been!

There were many good things about this book, but as I am an avid lover of good character development and well formed plots....I can't say I feel that Bernadine Evaristo ended up giving her novel the potential that it had in concept. I felt immensely confused and disconnected against my own will.

What do you think of the concept, doesn't it sound like a great book from the outside!?!

Other reader views:
Kittling Books
At Home with Books
(Have you reviewed it? let me know!)


Alyce said...

I thought it sounded like a good book too, but I didn't really connect with it either.

Here's a link to my review if you're interested:

bermudaonion said...

I think the concept is good, but would be difficult to execute well.

Ramya said...

just saw your comment on Natasha's blog saying that you were reading Anne of Green Gables right now.. guess what? I am listening to my audio version right now as I am typing this to you.. I am on chapter 20 right now and it is amazing to re-visit this book after nearly 12 years!

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I put this book down (permanently, I think) in January, about half way through, because I realized I wasn't connecting with the characters. Oh, and I also didn't find anything humorous, despite its billing as "tragicomic." Really great idea, though, I agree.

Jeane said...

It sounds like a very interesting premise, one I haven't seen approached before. But reading the other reviews, I think the mixed up locales would confuse me very much.

Anna said...

Thanks for the honest review. I have a hard time reading when I'm not connected to the characters in any way. I agree that the premise sounds interesting, but I think I'll pass on this one.

Diary of an Eccentric

S. Krishna said...

The concept does sound very interesting, but you're not the first to say that it wasn't well executed. Thanks for the review!