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The Longest Memory

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  789 ratings  ·  71 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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3.81  · 
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 ·  789 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Apr 04, 2008 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
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Such an impactful small book, a definite keeper in my library. I recommend this book to everyone.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-my-shelf
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
Chris Te Lindert
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A most powerful multi-perspective story set in the early 19th century slavery era of southern states America. The oldest slave on Mr Whitechapel’s plantation - Whitechapel - despite his long memory, wants to forget. The loss of his only son, and his unwitting role in it, haunts him. Each of those who play a role in these events contributes their experience adding another layer to the overwhelming cruelty that was perpetuated during this era. A very short read but one that is guaranteed to leave ...more
Mark Bell
Jul 07, 2014 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.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-time-best
This was the slowest I've read 120 pages in a long, long time. The story starts out by detailing an event, and then subsequently building up to this event through time jumps and retrospect. This gave me a sense if both urgency and dread as I read the pages, and kept me very engaged. The use of shifting perspectives added so much to the story, to the point where if I reread it, I'm sure I would interpret all the passages differently. This book did a wonderful job of balancing perspectives, and bu ...more
Peter Chapel
Fred D'Aguiar's novel "The Longest Memory" follows the story of a young slave named Chapel as he learns to play Fortnite. One day he tries to escape the infamous Whitechapel plantation and ultimately gets lashed 200 times like a boss. The novel is quiet enjoyable, but is evidently quiet niggardly as you get deeper into the novel. Whilst the novel for the most part is quiet lackluster, it has some pretty great moments that leave the reader satisfied. One of these moments is when Peter Griffin arr ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm most likely going to need to re read this one to understand the full concept but despite the heavy content in this book, it was actually quite good! I loved the poetic writing style, I feel like it made the story more realistic and emotional as you got to feel the character's real feelings. I also loved the disjointed storyline, personally it made me care for the plot more as I got to analyse which parts took place when and how it all fitted together as one story. Such an emotional and painf ...more
Sharon Banitt
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story of a young slave, Chapel, who decides to flee in 1910 and meet up with his white girlfriend (the landowner's daughter) in the North. His father inadvertently turns him in. Due to a deal with the plantation owner who knows the real story of this young man's birth. Instead, the owner is gone and the overseer condemns him to 200 lashes (enough to kill him). As it turns out this is really his half brother. A sad but interesting time of slavery in Virginia.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A moving and deeply sad story.
D'Aguiar effectively uses perspective to tell the story from multiple sides all building up to a conclusion that was presented in the first chapter (also a great choice).
Writing changed appropriately for the different characters. It always had a clear, poignant simplicity.
Highly recommended.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Surprisingly wonderful for a book I had to read for English class! It evoked SO much emotion in me and it was crazy intense. It covers so many themes and really brings to light the issues with slavery. It moved me to no end! Warning- I had to restrict myself from reading it at nights because I would get too upset and wouldn't be able to sleep. ;(
Massanutten Regional Library
Lisa, North River patron, July 2018, 4 stars:

The Longest Memory is historical fiction depicting life on a Virginian plantation between 1790 and 1810. The story is told from the viewpoint of several different people using different formats. While it tells a heartbreaking story, the telling is conveyed in a poignant style that can simultaneously sicken and touch the reader.
Vika Len
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Essentially: slavery creates the generational injustices between black Americans and white Americans, which is still echoing down to the modern day.

The Longest Memory is not a difficult book to read, the story itself contained and intricate, and gets the reader to emotionally invest, not in the individual characters, but in the broad concepts each character represent. We get angry at the ignorant and bigoted words of The Virginian not because we care so much about Whitechapel the slave, but beca
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: school
I read this for school and I read it rushed because I didn't get it until we had started studying it so I don't feel like I can accurately rate it but I hate it sitting there without a rating so it's getting 3 stars.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This book isn't what I would generally choose to read. It was sort of cheesy, not in a romantic way but it was predictable as a book and it didn't really have a deep meaning, its sort of just there for you.
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
gave an excellent insight into the lives of slaves in America and the justifications used by white Americans to condone such horrific acts.
Would certainly recommend
The writing style was descriptive and well written !
Lainey Da Silva PA
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really wasn’t sure what to expect on how I would feel reading this book but I Loved it! It’s such a sad story showing how life once was and how color
Distinguished a persons life. It also showed true love regardless of colour and love lost through human cruelty.
Well Worth the read.
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gives an insight into the effect of slavery on real people. Set in the late 1790s/early 1800s, you can feel the winds of change which takes the edge off the awfulness.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book that stays with you, especially in today's polarised climate
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this one. Not totally perfect but an engaging read.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Started stronger than it finished but deserving of all its credits. The kind of simple but thoughtful book you don't soon forget.
Georgie Gilmore
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Difficult to follow in places, but definitely gives you a new perspective.
Clive Parkin
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
The mix of voices, times and ideas results in a powerful combination. Lots of little idea “buds” here that elicit other imaginings as one reads.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found the first chapter to be my least favourite, but was so glad I pushed through as this was an excellent read and highly engaging thereafter.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and heartbreaking! Loved this book!
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
A really interesting and different concept and a story with a lot of heart!
An unsophisticated, easy-read novella, providing multiple points of view on the experience of plantation life during the era of slavery in America’s South. It is set over the course of one man’s lifetime - from the late 1700s to early 1800s. Though the plot is indeed moving, I found the writing disappointing, given all the promotional ‘hype’. It is best suited for a young teen (13 to 15) readership and has become a popular choice for classroom literature study, as it exhibits a range of narrativ ...more
May 27, 2013 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
Mar 24, 2016 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
Jan 29, 2013 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
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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