The Expedition to the Baobab Tree: A NovelThe Expedition to the Baobab Tree: A Novel by Wilma Stockenström
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

i waited too long to write my review for this book, and for that i apologize, because my memory of it has become a little jumbled. which, in a way, is fitting, since this is such a nonlinear and confusing splay of a book following an unnamed slave woman in south africa throughout her life: her horrifying capture and the destruction of her village as a young girl, her various owners and their treatment of her as she is moved around and sold, her rescue by a man she sees as a protector, but calls “the stranger,” and her retreat into a baobab tree after she is the sole survivor of an expedition gone terribly wrong, where she ultimately descends into a madness of confusion and fragmented images. also, a death by crocodile.

it’s a little embarrassing to admit that i was frequently confused reading this book. i used to be such a good reader. but this book, told in a stream-of-consciousness rush, by a woman who has been psychologically compromised by all that she has seen, doesn’t make it easy. it was tricky sometimes to distinguish from what part of her life each scene was relating, and while there were moments of narrative clarity, and instances of beautiful and alternately lyrical and stark prose, at the end of it, i didn’t feel like it contributed all that much to the canon of slave narratives. i have read this kind of story before: the horrors of slavery, its alienation and dehumanization, the moments of hope and peace and small reliefs, the cruel owner, the lustful owner, the kind owner, the preferential treatment that makes life easier but breeds jealousy and suspicion among other slaves…

and unfortunately, i was only able to read this in bits and pieces because stupid life got in the way, so that might have contributed to my confusion—this is a book best read in one long gulp. i apologize to you, book, for not reading you in the right way, and please accept my three stars cats as a token of my regret.

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