Ellen's Reviews > Feeding the Ghosts

Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D'Aguiar
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Throughout Fred D’Aguiar’s factually-based novel one character is described and portrayed in full detail and complexity: Mintah. D’Aquiar’s novel chronicles the events aboard the slave ship Zong, where—under orders by Captain Cunningham—the crew throws 132 slaves overboard. In theory, Captain Cunningham issues the orders to “save” the rest of the crew and slaves from disease. In reality, the captain decided they will save on rations by reducing their “stock” and that the slaves, weakened by disease, would fetch more money (from the insurance company) dead than alive.

Of the 132 slaves thrown overboard, Mintah is the only one able to save herself. In saving herself from an almost certain death, Mintah becomes an enigmatic figure: part ghost, part savior, part pariah, part historian. Mintah’s role already differed from those of the other slaves because she could speak and write English. Further, she knew the First Mate Kelsal’s unsavory past and is able to “name” him, figuratively and literally. It is her knowledge of Kelsal, more than her rebellion, which prompts Kelsal to order her overboard initially. Mintah’s story, both before being thrown overboard and afterwards, form the novel’s core.

Most of the imagery and symbolism used throughout the novel, relate to Mintah’s vision of her world, a world comprised of sea, land, and wood. In simple terms, the sea represents death and despair; land, a lost paradise; and wood, hope and salvation.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 13, 2009 – Shelved
December 21, 2009 – Shelved as: novels

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Thank you for this review, Ellen. I haven't decided if/when to read the book, because the subject matter, and D'Aguiar's skill will make it difficult. I loved The Longest Memory and feel some kinship with D'Aguiar, so I will probably read more of his work in time.


Ellen It was very powerful. I wept.


message 3: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Abigail, Ellen, I share your feelings. I shall have to steel myself to read this. But Ellen's review encourages me to think there may be 'hope and salvation' in Feeding the Ghosts.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Love this review. Fred is my colleague at Virginia Tech and my friend. This is indeed a powerful novel.


Ellen Thank you - what a talented writer your colleague/friend is. It is indeed powerful and beautifully written.

...And you're really liking Revolutionary Road, eh? :)


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Ha! Not bad so far. They're getting ready to boast to Shep and Millie about their European Vacation. I read your review. Very insightful. Dammit. I'm trying to beat back your excellent critique so I don't start chucking the thing around the room. I prefer to read from a position of stupidity and obliviousness.

btw, Yates apparently is the basis of the character of Elaine's father in Seinfeld. He meets Jerry and George in a hotel and much discomfort ensues as they wait for the late Elaine to arrive. If Yates is really like that character then it's clear where all the masculinist angst comes from!

(The older I get the less I like that show, by the way. The "satire" of Heart of Darkness in one episode is just terrible.)


Ellen Steven wrote: "Ha! Not bad so far. They're getting ready to boast to Shep and Millie about their European Vacation. I read your review. Very insightful. Dammit. I'm trying to beat back your excellent critiq..."

RR just hit me wrong from the get-go, and I do have the tendency to throw books around. Someone else told me about the Yates portrayal and Seinfeld. I could imagine Yates creating discomfort...

...Yes, I rarely watch Seinfeld anymore, and it seems a little lackluster.



Aaron Siegel Your review reminds of an essay I wrote in university about this book ;)


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