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2.96  ·  Rating Details ·  6,198 Ratings  ·  395 Reviews
When Prince Oroonoko's passion for the virtuous Imoinda arouses the jealousy of his grandfather, the lovers are cast into slavery and transported from Africa to the colony of Surinam. Oroonoko's noble bearing soon wins the respect of his English captors, but his struggle for freedom brings about his destruction. Inspired by Aphra Behn's visit to Surinam, Oroonoko reflects ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 30th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1688)
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Bill  Kerwin

A 17th century precursor to the novel, "Oronooko" condemns slavery not so much for its intrinsic evil but because it can oppress a man of true nobility--a man like the African prince Oronooko.

It is well written, moves briskly, and provides a fascinating contemporary glimpse not only of the slave trade but of the indigenous inhabitants of South America as well.
Jul 17, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it
I quite liked this book and would have probably given it a 5 had it not been for the racist depictions in the book. Behn depicts the protagonist, Oroonoko, as being extremely regal and handsome because of his European nose and straight hair, among other things. I guess since the book was written in the 17th Century, racism and ignorance about Africa and black people was to be expected. Apart from that, the story was pretty good, a tragic love story. The descriptions of Surinam were also ...more
There's a quiz on this tomorrow that's likely to consist of 'Who was the main character?' and 'What was the climax?' and 'Name three unconnected plot points that demonstrate ______' (It's been a while since my last English Lit class and I'm totally making shit up), so I'll get my digressive What I Think About This Thing out of the way here. Honestly, it was a windfall that this was assigned as short things make me nervous and I end up putting off reading them for ages, so a "Hey sup have a ...more
Dec 01, 2013 Hadrian rated it it was ok
It might be easy to dismiss this as a historical curio, but it's actually not too bad. This is a historical romance/tragedy about a captured king brought into slavery in English Suriname.

Behn's attitude toward slavery and monarchy is puzzling to us more modern readers. She's still an avowed pro-monarchist Tory, and it's as easy to interpret this as a pro-Stuart piece as an anti-slavery one. Well, humanizing some black people is a good start for the 17th century, I suppose.
Jan 02, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, rth-lifetime
Aphra Behn (AF-ra Ben) was a popular playwright and dabbly novelist in the late 1600s, part of the gap between Shakespeare and novels. Bawdy, free-thinking, perpetually broke, perversely royalist, and probably atheist, she fell badly out of favor in the next few centuries and is now making a tepid comeback - tepid because as much as we'd love to have a radical(ish) female protonovelist in the canon, Behn is only okay as a writer.

Oroonoko has a pretty good plot: the titular archetypal noble savag
Oct 04, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I LOVED: The love story is Vivid and the plot is Alive. But all this matters not when placed on the other side of the spectrum where Misery is Aware and Dismemberment is the ultimate form of Destruction. I was wowed.

A Must!
Jul 02, 2008 Leah rated it liked it
Shelves: quartered
Aphra Behn's Oroonoko is theorized in style and format to possibly be one of the first novels in English, connecting the worlds of Europe, Africa, and America in a tale that is common in plot but uncommon in character. Written by the so-called "bad girl" of her time, Behn's novel explores firs the foreign world of Coramantien and its royalty. The title character of the Royal Prince then finds himself with soldiers and war captains with the natives of Surinam, and then with its colonists. ...more
Oroonoko is a complicated novel for me to rate.

I think Virginia Woolf was correct in stating that Aphra Behn's career as a whole was more important than any particular work, but I suppose I still have to rate the novella as it stands. I will start by saying that it's historical context seems to be extremely important in understanding before reading it, and for a few reasons. First, Aphra Behn is considered to be the first woman to make a career for herself* (and without a pseudonym!) from writin
Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder
This book got off to a rather dull, though interesting beginning, but improved as I continued to read.

The author was ahead of her time in more ways than one.
Sep 12, 2012 kaelan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is important to realize that at the time Oroonoko was written, our modern concept of the novel simply didn't exist. This perhaps excuses several of the more glaring 'problems' with this work.

I mean: yes, it's a very uneven piece of literature—despite an absence of chapter breaks (perhaps they haven’t been invented yet?), the text fluctuates wildly between tedious exposition (sadly, this applies to the entire first half of the text), exhilarating proto-travel lit (Behn was a seasoned traveler
I can sum up my general feelings about this book in a well known quote by Maya Angelou:

"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."

Oroonoko really could've avoided half of his misfortune if he had learned this principle after he was abducted into slavery by someone he considered a friend. However, he decided he was going to repeatedly try to apply his African moral system into his new surroundings and go by the "honor system" taking everybody at their word. No matter how man
Amber Tucker
Dec 07, 2010 Amber Tucker rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Meh
Well, that was... not really worth it.

A little exaggeration on my part, I suppose. It's kind of tedious and the ending? It's tragically significant, but also, I found, needlessly gory and yet ostensibly titillating at the same bloody (that's not just an expletive) time. And, needless to say, imperialism and racism are written all over it – unless you try to read between the lines, which can be done to some extent, and which I've tried to do. I don't want to dismiss the whole thing right off.

Jun 13, 2016 Kathleen rated it really liked it
From the first professional woman writer, published in 1688, this is a story about the enslaved grandson of an African King. We are treated to numerous descriptions of his beauty, and the limitlessness of true love, yet not spared the details of his torturous life or gruesome end.

I have now obeyed Virginia Woolf’s famous directive to women to “let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” I was pleased that, while this story reflect
Dec 03, 2010 Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-school
I had mixed feelings about this book.
There were so many interesting things about it, I hardly know where to begin.
It's a slave narrative, an adventure tale, a courtly romance, a biography, a travel narrative, a memoir, and a heroic tragedy. It's a strange conglomeration of sentiments: anti-slavery, royalist, feminist, with empathy to the undervalued and dehumanized. Behn touched on so many subjects - it gave me such a wonderful glimpse into her world.

I am familiar with this period of history,
Mar 23, 2016 Rosemary rated it liked it
An odd book. Behn's view seems to be that it's OK for people to be enslaved as a result of war (as they were in all races and cultures), but not to be traded and exported. Also that it's wrong to enslave a prince of any tribe, race or culture (they would usually have been ransomed) but OK for the common people. Prince Oroonoko therefore has her sympathy and even support to escape, if he can make it.

The story might be criticized as racist and in some ways it is - e.g. the 'beautiful' and 'noble'
Elijah Kinch Spector
Nov 19, 2015 Elijah Kinch Spector rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
The moral: Slavery is bad when it happens to someone we like, especially if that someone is royalty. In the end, it's really all about Aphra Behn being a royalist and about how very terrible it was for Charles I to be executed like a normal person! But it manages to be about that in a way that's also pretty racist.

It isn't really fair for me to blame that on Mrs. Behn, because she wrote it a very, very, very long time ago, and we have to look at it in its context. So I understand why it is like
Mounim Kamel
May 05, 2015 Mounim Kamel rated it it was ok

It is a story of an African prince and his beloved wife Imoinda, who are captured by the British and brought to Surinam as slaves.

Because of Oroonoko’s high social status as a former prince, superior education, and spectacular physical appearance, Oroonoko is never sent to work. He was asking for his freedom over and over while they feed him with lies, Oroonoko realizes he will never be free…

I don’t want to say more, all i can say is that i had mixed feeling for the book and the character since
Alex Kurtagic
Jun 25, 2013 Alex Kurtagic rated it really liked it
Aphra Behn (1640 – 1689) was a prolific dramatist, spy, and Tory propagandist of the English Restoration. After spying for Charles II in Antwerp during the Dutch wars, she turned to literature and became a successful author—indeed, the first female literary author to earn her living entirely from her quill. It is possible nowadays to obtain her entire oeuvre in a six-volume collection (300+ pages per volume). However, her most prominent works include a comedy, such as The Rover (1677); a farce, ...more
Nadosia Grey
May 15, 2015 Nadosia Grey rated it it was ok
Shelves: ethnic
Many critics have pointed out the narrative persuasiveness of this work. I’m not sure how they draw these conclusions. Even the first time reading this work I knew that the narration was terribly off in the sense that there was a certain unreliability present. If Behn should be commended for this work, it’s precisely for the effort of trying to synthesize dramatic conventions into the novel—something I think she doesn’t quite achieve.

Contradictory descriptions
Even when Oroonoko is first being
Oct 19, 2016 Esmay rated it liked it
It was not as bad as I thought! but the ending was way to painful!
Rowland Bismark
Jun 14, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it really liked it
Although it was not popular duing Behn's lifetime, today Oroonoko (1688) is Aphra Behn's most widely read and most highly regarded work. Oroonoko: or the Royal Slave remains important. It also influenced the development of the English novel, developing the female narrative voice and treating anti-colonial and abolitionist themes. It developed the figure of the noble savage that was later to be made famous by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Scholars have debated which work should cou
Ana Maria Rînceanu
This was a slow burner for me, but I can warmly recommend it to all over the age of consent. Aphra Behn is one lovely lady I just recently discovered and I plan on reading more from her. Even though she wrote in the 1660s.

4 ongoing debates in this book:

European vs Native Superiority
The Female Narrative Voice

I know for a fact that every time I hear the words "a noble savage", I roll my eyes. (Admit it some of you do too!) Whether it be a physical manifestation or an intern
Jun 11, 2012 Leslie rated it it was ok
Shelves: college-books
Though artfully written, Oroonoko is a seriously depressing story of a young African prince given over to a life of suffering and grief. His troubles begin when his grandfather is jealous of Oroonoko's future wife and takes her for himself. Unbeknownst to Oroonoko, Imoinda is later sold into slavery, and the wonderful part of the story comes when he becomes a slave and miraculously is reunited with her. Because the pair of them are so beautiful and well-respected, they are allowed to marry and ...more
Nov 06, 2011 Ambur rated it it was ok
Well, I had to read this one for my Restorations class, and I'm gonna admit, I'm not a big fan. I didn't hate it, but I definitely wasn't pulled into the story. I just didn't enjoy the way that Behn told it. I'm not a fan of books that are overly descriptive, and I like to get to know the narrator. However, Oroonoko is not about the narrator, it's the story of A Royal Slave, Oroonoko, told by the narrator, and I just couldn't get interested in this story the way it was told. It's a novella, but ...more
Rachel Hirstwood
Oct 11, 2011 Rachel Hirstwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short novel by a woman first published in 1688! Aphra Behn was ahead of her times - not only as one of a scant few published women, but I think, in her views on slavery.

This is a fictional work purporting to be the account of an African prince who ends up in Surinam as a slave. It is also the love story of the prince and his one love - unusual for it being monogamous love is a polygamous society.

I admit I gave up on this novel the first time as I found it a bit dull - but looking at it is a re
Apr 29, 2013 i! rated it did not like it
Shelves: auto-biography, 1600s
A well-Tempered and Unhistrionic Narrative of most Novelty and Glouriousness, most viciously indicting that Establishment that would have Royalty in Irons. The King (G O D bless His Soul) would be indignant beyond Measure to know of the Ways in which Negroes most nobly endowed (they should rightfully be called Dark Aryans or Patricians, after the Roman Aristocracy) are clapped in Chains and made to work among the Regular Darkies, who, lacking those Traits, or Origin most mirroring a Fairy Tale i ...more
Adam Floridia
Aug 09, 2012 Adam Floridia rated it really liked it
On re-reading:

How did I originally give this only two stars? It's a well-written story that serves many purposes: travelogue, biography, Romance, abolitionist text, feminist breakthrough, and tragedy. It's like Romeo and Juliet meets King Lear plus Othello. Like most slave narratives, it disgusts you with its cruelties, making you wonder how an author could come up with such horrible things. Then you remember that humans actually used to treat other humans like this. And it makes you a little s
Paula W
Apr 22, 2016 Paula W rated it liked it
Significant for possibly being the first novel written (and by a woman, no less), I can't really say that I loved the book. There were parts I liked. There were parts I quite liked. And then this odd little narrative ended in a tragedy so grotesque that even Shakespeare wouldn't have put it into writing. Where's the alka seltzer?
Janet Aileen
Jun 01, 2016 Janet Aileen rated it liked it
While the book provides quite a slog through the prose of the author's day, the book is a memorable historic piece.
Alice Lippart
Quite an interesting read, though has some views from the time period that for me at least, were a bit distracting. But otherwise good.
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Aphra Behn was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature. Along with Delarivier Manley and Eliza Haywood, she is sometimes referred to as part of "The fair triumvirate of wit."

In author Virginia Woolf's reckoning, Behn's total career is more important than
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