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Middle Passage
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Past Reads > Middle Passage by Charles Johnson, pages 101 to end

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George (georgejazz) | 505 comments Mod
Please comment here on Middle Passage by Charles Johnson, pages 101 to end.

Irene | 561 comments Finished this last night. It did not work for me. I am grateful it was so short.

Here is my review.

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

Rutherford, only 22 years old and recently emancipated by a kind preacher who treated him with remarkable respect, even providing him with a classic education, signs onto the crew of a slave ship to avoid creditors and the woman who wants to marry him. For the next 200 pages, the reader observes the violence, hardships and dangers of early 19th century life on a boat transporting human cargo. Apparently, Johnson wanted to create a philosophical novel of sweeping scope. Rutherford, the narrator uses a vocabulary conveys a world view and discusses philosophical questions that never match his time, background or context. There are certainly numerous deep questions introduced in this novel. Johnson creates vibrant characters and atmosphere in very few words. But, the contrast between who the characters were and what they said and thought became an insurmountable barrier to my entry into this story. The violence that permeated the pages was often treated in a nearly flippant manner. The ending was a let down for me. I realize that this is an award winning book with technically strong prose, but I did not enjoy it at all.

message 3: by George (last edited Jul 11, 2018 09:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

George (georgejazz) | 505 comments Mod
Yes, I can understand your viewpoint Irene.
It's not an enjoyable read. However I found it interesting and thought provoking.

After all the adventure, the violence, Rutherford learns that caring for others is a better way of life than living solely for himself.

A worthwhile read but probably not a novel I'd reread.

A quote from the book that I liked:
"Anger, we say, is like the blade of a sword, very difficult to hold for long without harming oneself."

A very good slave ship novel that I liked more is Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth, 1992 Booker Prize winner, however it's 630 pages. Here the author presents characters that are more authentic.

Irene | 561 comments I also liked Sacred Hunger better.

Julia Jones | 11 comments I liked the end of the book better than the beginning. There were little philosophical gems: the belief system of the Allmuseri was interesting. However, I understand the point that Rutherford wouldn't think/talk as he did. I wonder if Johnson had developed the relationship between Falcon and Rutherford more, he could have had Rutherford learn from Falcon, and hopefully render Rutherford's knowledge more believable.

Thanks for the recommendation of Sacred Hunger. I'll have to check it out.

George (georgejazz) | 505 comments Mod
I too preferred the last part of the book to the beginning.

Rutherford overwrites Falcon's log so I am okay with Rutherford's very good vocabulary from the time Rutherford makes use of the log.

A work of fiction allows the author to do whatever he/she wants to a story and the characters in the story. The author can play with historical facts, make characters use words that in real life they probably wouldn't use, include lots of coincidences...etc.

For me, Middle Passage is a readable, entertaining, interesting, worthwhile read. I think the novel suffers a little by the author trying to include too many issues and ideas and by sometimes being a little too clever!

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