Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: Book of Negroes CBC Miniseries

Hello! Today I come to talk about a book and a book to screen adaptation, specifically Book of Negroes, which is originally a book by Lawrence Hill. I read it initially in grade 11, so I didn't remember the plot, but I did remember enjoying it and eventually being drawn into the story and the characters. 

Over 6 weeks in January, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) aired a mini series that was based on the book. It was 6 parts, each part an hour. Since sometimes when book-to-film adaptations come out, bookish people write blog posts on them, I thought I'd do a review of this mini series! 

So, the Book of Negroes storyline covers the life a girl, Aminata, from her life in her African village in Guinea, and her experience being taken from her home and being sold as a slave across the ocean. The story is then her story of struggle as she travels and tries to find her way back to her loved ones and her home, all the while fighting for her life. If you've never read the Book of Negroes, you really should. It's a very interesting history of the slave trade, and I think that is something important to know about. I know that it you could learn about it from a textbook, but when it is from the perspective of a character, in this case Aminata, you get to see how her personal life was affected and you can empathize with her. Aminata herself is an amazing, strong character and she never gives up a fight and always stands up for herself and those she loves. 

I suppose it's a bit easier to adapt a book (quite a long one too) into a 6 hour series rather than a movie, but CBC did so well with this one. I didn't remember the book much, which may have helped me not to be too judgmental of discrepancies. But what I did remember - the intense story of struggle that Aminata went through and how she fought with everything she had to get through hard times - that was all included in the mini series. Each hour long episode, despite being an hour, never felt like it was long enough. The plot moved along at a quick pace and there was enough interesting twists that it was easy to get caught up in the story and be moved along. Everything made sense and fit together well, although of course some of the plot points were devastating for Aminata, and that was hard to watch. 

The various characters were also very well rounded and interesting, especially Aminata. Sometimes when I read a book or watch a film where the characters are fascinated by this one character and say that she's special all the time and that she's destined for great things, I can't help but roll my eyes and think, oh whatever, she's not that special (*cough*Divergent*cough*). But not with Aminata. She is so strong-willed and tough, you can't help but cheer for her all the way through and think yes, yes, of course she's going to do great things. Not only that but you want more people to see her brilliance for what it is - although of course, the sad thing is with racism, her strength and intelligence are often discounted because of her skin colour. 

Aminata was not the only interesting character, however. I don't know how characters were introduced in each episode, but it was still heartbreaking to leave each one when the time came. Of course, this was also probably because of the relationships that Aminata cultivated with people, always so open and compassionate. 

The Book of Negroes mini series kept me (and my best friend who I watched it with) clutching our blankets the whole way through, and crying with Aminata through her ups and downs. Especially the last episode, there were so many heartbreaking things that happened. 

The Book of Negroes is more than just a simple story of a black slave during the time of the slave trade. It is an important and interesting story of a strong-willed young woman's life. I hope you will check out the mini series, and dive into a fuller understanding of the slave trade while you are wrapped up in Aminata and her story.

You can find the Book of Negroes mini series on CBC here, and it is also on BET here. I believe it is also on iTunes. 

If you want to check out the book, you can find it on Goodreads here.


  1. I've come to the opinion that TV series or miniseries are really the best medium for adapting books to screen, rather than movies.

    This looks like a good series. Some of these slave narrative stories, though, I can't always handle. It is really rough watching people be put down constantly over and over again, or watching people getting broken down...a little less so in other fiction, but in historical fiction or documentaries, more so. For me, at least. I don't like watching films about the Holocaust or real-life wars for similar reasons. Unless it's a documentary. I suppose it's because the documentary narrative gives me that bit of distance from the story and lets me process it in a different way...though it's always a testament to the strong and empathetic characters and writing you describe here when it legitimately is upsetting. That means the movie has succeeded in making the viewer identify with them.

    1. Yeah, it is hard watching what these people go through, but I think it's good to realize how much struggle they went to. Also, the nice thing about the Book of Negroes is how much hope there is as well, amid the struggle. I think the main character, Aminata, is a huge part of bringing hope to the story. It's a really, really good book (and series).

    2. Great characters are the best. Even when books or movies have exciting plots but a weak character, I don't like them...I'm glad she is such a strong lead. You'd need that to carry a series like this. Who's the actor playing her?


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