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The Longest Memory

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  435 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
From William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner to Toni Morrison's Beloved, modern American fiction engaged with slavery has provoked fiery controversy. So will The Longest Memory, the powerful, beautifully crafted, internationally acclaimed fictional debut of prizewinning Guyanese poet Fred D'Aguiar. In language extraordinary for its tautness and resonance, The Longes ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published July 6th 1995 by Vintage (first published October 1st 1994)
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Mar 26, 2009 Beejay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-top-shelf

The following is my review, written in 2006, of this amazing book, which I read on the recommendation of another member, and a good friend of mine, Mandy. If it inspires anyone to add this book to their "To Read" list then both she and I will be much pleased:

This week I had the privilege of reading this very short, very beautifully crafted book by Fred D’Aguiar, a writer whose name I had never come across before, which is of course a reflection on my own literary ignorance as this book was a win
Jan 15, 2015 Liz rated it it was amazing
I understand why this book has won awards.

I bought The Longest Memory as a super-cheap scratch-and-dent from knowing nothing other than it's synopsis. So, I took a chance. I'm so glad that I did.

In the initial chapters were are introduced to Whitechapel. He is an elderly slave of the Whitechapel Plantation in Virginia. He has buried two wives and sired thirteen children, only one of which, Chapel, is a son.

The book opens with the death of Whitechapel's second wife, mother of Chape
Jun 20, 2015 Nyaduoth rated it it was amazing
I immensely enjoyed this book. I was fully captivated and deeply intrigrued through it. The prose was beautiful and the language itself was equisite. The characters were sublime, and through them all I understood the different perspectives in which they regarded slavery. Whitechapel's narrative was by far my favourite, because he revealed the need to accept our circumstances without defiance as acceptance is the ultimate form of survival. His notion of two different kinds of slaves was interesti ...more
Mark Bell
Jul 07, 2014 Mark Bell rated it really liked it
Others have given the essence of the story, a subject that I am familiar with. My comment concerns the author's writing style. Precision and command of language are his clarion calls. A style that is worthy of praise and adulation.
Apr 30, 2016 Marie rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I never found this book before but came across it because it is on the list for Year 12 next year. It tells the stories of individuals connected to the brutal murder of a slave called Chapel who attempted an escape from a plantation. The story is told from various perspectives including his father Whitechapel who has a devastating role in his son's death. The use of shifting narrators is interesting because it presents multiple perspective of both the African American and white ...more
May 27, 2013 Leif rated it really liked it
A provocative opening begins this, one of the shorter & starker mediations on American slavery from Anglo-Caribbean eyes. I mean, just listen to this:
The future is just more of the past waiting to happen. You do not want to know my past nor do you want to know my name for the simple reason that I have none and would have to make it up to please you. What my eyes say has never been true. All these years of my life are in my hands, not in these eyes or even in this head.
Well you can't help but
Sue Hatton
Jun 11, 2016 Sue Hatton rated it it was ok
Has to read this as part of the pairs for the new Yr 12 Study Design. It's ok, disjointed, offers different narratives from different perspectives. As a text for my students- way too many contexts for them and I think we have enough culture of our own. It's paired with the play 'Black Diggers'. So many contexts and opportunities to write from various points. As a stand alone book, I've read better.
Apr 03, 2016 Blair rated it liked it
Disappointing in the end. There's something quite clever about the circling structure of the book and the prose is very good in sections but a couple of the sections come across as horribly contrived missteps.
Stuart Chambers
Dec 07, 2015 Stuart Chambers rated it liked it
This book is immenseley readable, incredibly simple, hugely provocative and so deeply profound but I couldn't help thinking as I read the book that even less would have given the reader so very much more
Jan 31, 2013 Maz rated it really liked it
Difficult to understand at the beginning, but enormously rewarding if you can get past that. The subject matter (slavery) is something I personally haven't read about in a novel before, so I had no idea what to expect. The story is pieced together by various characters who are or have been tied to the 'Whitechapel' plantation in some way. You therefore come away with multiple perspectives about what it's like to be a slave, societal attitudes towards slavery at the time, and the chain of events ...more
Christina Trotter
I enjoyed this book. An easy book to read but lots of complex situations and feelings being delved into.
May 03, 2011 Project rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, slaves
Putting aside the subject matter (which is "compelling" and all that) for a moment, it is hard not to admire the way that the author successfully uses a jigsaw approach to build up the total story.[return][return]D'Aguiar patches this together using everything from first person memoir to poetry to newspaper editorials to construct a story in which the reader is left with some (limited) options as to what they think about things.[return][return]From the perspective of finding books which are a us ...more
Kiara Shivaz
Aug 09, 2016 Kiara Shivaz rated it really liked it
"Memory is pain trying to resurrect itself"
This was actually more like 4.5/5 stars. I really love this book. We knew the plot from the get-go but I still really enjoyed the revelations from different characters that were revealed through multiple points of view. I especially love Chapel's chapter which was written in verse - the different style of writing added so much to his words. I found myself being quite critical of Whitechapel though I understand the motivation for his actions. I definite
Apr 12, 2012 Fiona rated it really liked it
I liked it because it is so different from the type of book I would normally pick up.

Written as a first novel by a young man from Guyana, although the book is published in England in 1994, the novel chronicles life and death in a slave family in Virginia around 1810.

Using a variety of different writing styles and methods, D'Aguiar explores the conflicts and tensions between generations of slaves and between slave and master, and slave and son, and slave's son and master's daughter.

Worthy of a
Rose Nisbet
Jul 01, 2015 Rose Nisbet rated it it was amazing
Simple, but not simplistic, packs a powerful punch for it's size.
May 21, 2013 Georgemaynard rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna Brotherson
Feb 25, 2015 Anna Brotherson rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking and brilliant.
Feb 01, 2011 meg rated it really liked it
A short book about slavery, told from various points of view. But what makes this one different from others is the way it's told. It is not narrated by a disconnected source, but instead by an old gentleman, reflecting on his actions towards his only son, who is in love with the owners daughter. It is also told from his mothers point of view, the owners daughter, and other characters, ending with the thoughts of the old man once again. It's a book told with a breath of poetry similar to Toni Mor ...more
Jul 10, 2014 Jacqueline rated it liked it
This novel is definitely worth a read.. very short which makes it a simple quick read. Based upon slavery among African-Americans. The only downfall for me was a tad confusion - constant flashbacks and I am quite sure it's not structured chronologically which you need to get your head around. Otherwise I would definitely recommend it to gain a version of one's perspective and appreciate how lucky you are in a developed country.
Jul 26, 2009 Hazel rated it really liked it
I shall have to spend some time thinking about this and absorbing it. I can say that D'Aguiar is clearly a poet, and perhaps first a poet. I was intensely moved by the introduction, entitled Remembering. This is how it concludes.

'I don't want to remember. Memory hurts. Like crying. But still and deep. Memory rises to the skin then I can't be touched. I hurt all over, my bones ache, my teeth loosen in their gums, my nose bleeds. Don't make me remember. I forget as hard as I can.'
Wilde Sky
Jan 19, 2013 Wilde Sky rated it really liked it
A slave in 1810 Virginia runs away, is caught and whipped to death.

The book was well written and the plot evolved from a number of different points of view and in varied writing styles. It explores the conflicts and tensions between generations of slaves / masters / family members.

Most of the book worked well and was moving / thought provoking – the only section that didn’t work for me was the newspaper editorials.

A good read.
Nov 28, 2014 Faye rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this read very much.
Ingrid Kirkegaard
Oct 21, 2015 Ingrid Kirkegaard rated it it was amazing
Amazing act of narration
Wendy Chard
Apr 02, 2012 Wendy Chard rated it it was amazing
A truly astounding novel; tender, moving, sad. Offering an array of voices, the story is an insight into love in all its incarnations. It is also an insight into utter helplessness.

I was tangled in the emotions of this story. I was enraged by the inhumanity.
Mar 24, 2014 Emily rated it it was ok
Read it as my English assignment. To be honest, slavery isn't my thing but this book is decent enough to keep me going until the last page. It's rather confusing, and the ending is anti-climatic. I really have nothing to say about this book :|
May 22, 2007 Cassie rated it it was amazing
This book was one of the reasons I became an English major. We read it in Intro to Literature and I loved the story and the discussions about it so much I added a second major. I will have to re-read it again to remember why it struck me so much.
Dec 09, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best written books I've read. It's small in page numbers, but due to great language usage, its loaded so many dynamics, the unraveling of events and attitudes that culminated into a tragic miscalculated evening.
Oct 03, 2013 Rachael rated it it was amazing
D'Aguiar has the most amazing ability to script together words. Metaphors run harmonious and free in his shifting prose. I picked it up randomly browsing through my library shelves and it was a very worthwhile find!
Apr 25, 2012 Alexia rated it really liked it
I wish The Longest Memory was longer! Written simply and poignantly, this book was so easy to read. The writing was a bit amateur but I'm curious to see what else he has written.
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Poet, novelist and playwright Fred D'Aguiar was born in London in 1960 to Guyanese parents. He lived in Guyana until he was 12, returning to England in 1972.

He trained as a psychiatric nurse before reading African and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury, graduating in 1985. His first collection of poetry, Mama Dot (1985), was published to much acclaim and established his reputa
More about Fred D'Aguiar...

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