Book Review – The Bondwoman’s Narrative
It took me a while to get through this book. Not because it was a hard read, but because I lost it right after we moved last summer. I found it a few weeks ago and excitedly set to reading it again.
It has been argued that The Bondwoman’s Narrative, an autobiographical novel, is the only slave authored manuscript in publication today that is whole and complete. Impressive evidence is given in the story’s preface to help prove this and the validity of the story. To be honest with you, I didn’t read the entire preface – just skimmed it for information, though I got the idea.
Mr. Gates’ was careful in his editing not to add, remove, or change anything in the story, which was a common occurrence during the 19th century when publishers sought to change much about a black author’s story. Gates’ soul purpose as editor was to create a readable and understandable copy of Hannah’s original story. You can see throughout the book that he was absolutely dedicated to keeping Ms. Crafts’ original novel intact by the notes he added when he had to correct something or make something more understandable. Even lines that Hannah had written and crossed out were left as-is.
Personally, I loved this book simply for the reason that Hannah’s faith was so completely real. How somebody who lives an oppressive life can have such a strong faith is amazing to me. Hannah believed in her salvation and each trial in her life, and she had more than the average person could imagine, brought her a closer relationship with her savior. That alone made this book great.
Also positive was Hannah’s submission to the authorities God had set before her. Although not happy about it, she resigned herself to be obedient and content wherever God put her. There were times when she struggled with this but she did the best with what she had until she felt God’s go ahead to take a different path.
Good people are littered throughout this book, too. Although much of the book discusses hardship Hannah was not blind to unexpected generosities.
The story in itself is a testimony to hope in hopelessness, joy in unhappiness, and faith in the unseen.
There were no negatives in this book. It was easy to read, completely believable, and clean enough for my 13 year old daughter. The only warning I will give is the reference to extra marital affairs and children many slave owners had with their slaves. This was kept very clean and details were not graphic by any means. There was also a short but very intense description of slavery well into the book that may require some discussion if the reader is young.
To sum it up:
I recommend this book to anybody teen aged and up. Many 11 and 12 year olds could benefit from Hannah’s story, too. It’s an easy read and would be a terrific book to read out loud and discuss with your children or as a family.
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