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The longest memory : a novel /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Pantheon Books, 1994
Edition: First American edition.
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Review by Choice Review

D'Aguiar, a poet from Guyana now living in the US, writes in a lyrical prose style that portrays the wide range of psychological and emotional conflicts shared by masters and slaves during the era of American slavery. The story centers on the life of an old and loyal slave who inadvertently causes the brutal death of his wife's offspring--conceived as the result of rape by the white overseer--whom he has raised and loved as his son. D'Aguiar tells a moving, sensitive tale of black-white relationships affected by blood ties and societal placement, revealing the slave system's complicated bonds and ironic associations. Presented from various viewpoints, the story reveals the irreconcilable patterns of thought that build barriers between individuals. The reader discerns how the tragedy that began during slavery continues to produce consequences for today's black and white Americans. All libraries. A. Costanzo; Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

This first novel of the acclaimed Guyanese poet, now London resident, is spectacular, not in showiness, but in its sublimity. Its brevity belies its power; it haunts, impresses, depresses--but ultimately causes the reader to rejoice over the ability of fiction to tell truths. The setting is antebellum Virginia, and the plot centers on one despicable incident. A young male slave attempts to run away, is quickly apprehended, and dies in the process of being punished. The structure of the narrative works superbly; in 13 sections, various individuals involved in the young slave's life speak their piece. We hear from, among other persons, his adoptive father, the senior slave on the plantation, who grieves but tries to numb himself as a way of coping with the situation; the plantation owner, who is benevolent to a degree but to whom slaves still represent property; the plantation overseer, who carries out the beating; the cook in the big house, mother of the runaway; and the daughter of the master, who taught the slave to read and by her association with him engendered his flight to freedom. The inhumanity of slavery has not been so achingly understood or expressed so beautifully since Toni Morrison's very disturbing Beloved [BKL Jl 87], and no fiction collection can do without it. ~--Brad Hooper

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A slave flees a Virginia plantation in 1810; his father divulges his whereabouts to their master, hoping to win leniency; instead, the runaway is caught and whipped to death, just one day after his mother has died. This stark tragedy unfolds through a chorus of alternating voices in this fiercely lyrical, powerful fiction debut by Guyanese poet D'Aguiar (Mama Dot). The intense guilt felt by Whitechapel, the anguished father who inadvertently betrays his son, Chapel, drives the narrative. Sanders Junior, a sadistic overseer, kills Chapel without realizing that they are half-brothers (through an act of rape by Sanders Senior). Another pivotal element that broadens the story is Chapel's doomed love affair with Lydia, the plantation master's free-spirited, abolitionist daughter, with whom he plans to escape to freedom. Through a series of mock contemporary newspaper editorials inserted into the text, D'Aguiar incisively represents the struggle of racist Virginia planters to reconcile slaveholding with Christianity. He also explores the conflict among African American slaves between obedient, stoic survivalists and defiant rebels, adding resonance to his haunting tale. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

The early 19th-century Virginia plantation that forms the setting of this first novel by a prize-winning Guyanese poet and playwright is a remarkable place, peopled with philosophical types of the sort that inhabit the TV series Picket Fences: the wise old slave who is forced to watch his wife's rebellious son flogged to death, the "enlightened" plantation owner who eschews such punishment, the local newspaper editor, and even the cruel overseer who is able to reflect on his fate and argue issues. The plot concerns a young slave, in love with a white girl, who is inadvertently betrayed by his father when he attempts to flee. Readers who can suspend disbelief and slough off the didacticism will be rewarded by D'Aguiar's lyrical and evocative rendering of this singular American tragedy through the various points of view-in modes ranging from rhymed couplets to diary entries and editorials-of each of the participants. For general collections.-David Sowd, formerly with Stark Cty. District Lib., Canton, Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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