Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Definitely interesting, but did I love it?

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Author: Olaudah Equiano
Audio Narrator: Ben Bailey Smith
Genre: Non-Fiction / Classic
First published: 1789
Edition: Audible audio book & paperback, published by Dover Thrift Editions in 1999

A compelling account that has gripped and fascinated readers since its original London publication in 1789, the narrative describes Equiano’s formidable journey from captivity to freedom and literacy.

***

I am not entirely sure what I expected from this 18th century memoir and having read it I am still not sure whether it lived up to whatever subconscious expectations I may have had. I was not disappointed exactly, but I felt a bit surprised with where it lay the emphasis at times.

I listened to the audio book of this one and David Olusoga’s foreword was a compelling introduction to the actual narrative and definitely added something interesting. As for the narrative itself, it was definitely fascinating, but I am not sure it quite grabbed me. Maybe it is the 18th century language. Maybe it’s the narrative itself, but it had a bit of trouble at times holding my attention.

I definitely enjoyed the listen, but I had expected a little bit more maybe. There was an emphasis on religion that, although clearly important to the author, I was not that interested in. Surprising, as I am generally quite interested in the what, why and how of religion.

The author used to be slave and set himself free, but even as a freed slave, he explains you were never equal and life was not necessarily better. The bits of the memoir that spoke about the political and social aspects of slavery were the bits I found most interesting. Maybe because those were the bits I knew least about and I wanted to find out more. I felt it did not explore those quite enough. But then, this is one man’s memoir, and he wrote about what was important to him, what had an impact on him at a time when slavery was still relatively common.

Is it worth the read/listen? As an account of history, it’s definitely interesting and fascinating. Did I absolutely love it? No, for me the emphasis lay in the wrong places at times.

5 out of 7 stars

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