Review: The Book of Night Women (****)
As I have gotten older (still not that old) I have noticed that my taste in reading material is evolving. Although I still love a nice YA novel, I am becoming more and more intrigued by proper adult fiction (and even non-fiction, as you have seen from my non-fiction related book posts). One of the types of books I want to try to read more of in 2017 is books written by people of color. I think literature helps you expand your mind and therefore it is important not to limit the voices you hear from. A great start to this, sort of, new year’s resolution was reading ‘The Book of Night Women’ by Marlon James for my Undercover Book Club.
In ‘The Book of Night Women’ Marlon James tells the tale of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. With her piercing green eyes, Lilith is a temperamental, sometimes reckless, girl. As Lilith gets older she slowly moves through the ranks of a house slave, experiencing an array of relations with the different ‘white’ people on the plantation and the island. Meanwhile, the ‘Night Women’ are planning a slave revolt and as their plans for rebellion grow, the rebellion inside Lilith slowly morphs from black/white towards different shades of gray.
The book is written in dialect, this takes some getting used to but after a while you hardly notice. I was immediately drawn into the story and, although it is quite gruesome at times, I found it hard to put down. In the beginning, I found Lilith to be a bit annoying, but this was mainly due to the fact that she was testing her limits, being a temperamental teenager. I enjoyed the plot as it slowly unfolded and took you from a very black/white perspective to one with more gray areas. The book does a really good job showing you that nobody is inherently good. It doesn’t shy away from graphic descriptions of torture/punishment that, although fiction, probably did happen. I feel the violence is described so matter of factly that it hits you even harder, because in those times it was that matter of factly done. This makes the violence not necessarily a ‘shock’ factor, but a very important part of the story being told. Lilith, the main character, moves around a bit, giving you different slave/master dynamics as she interacts with different households. I found this very effective in giving a slightly bigger picture. There was also a touch of ‘magic’ in this book, which was just enough to add depth to the culture of the slaves but not so much that it makes me consider it magical realism.
Overall this book was, for me, an introduction into literature about slavery and I think it was a very good one. So if you have any tips for other books, please let me know!