Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The bondwoman's narrative (Crafts) 483

I was intrigued by The bondwoman's narrative when it arrived (I can't remember where from). The format of the book was different to any of the other VMCs, being a large trade paperback - indeed the cover design was not at all reminiscent of a VMC. Secondly, the blurb on the back of the book informed me that this was believed to be the earliest manuscript by a black woman.

The bondwoman narrative tells the story of the literate houseslave Hannah Crafts and provides a detailed account of the life of a slave. We learn about how slaves are treated and mistreated and episodes in her life.

The book as edited by Henry Louis Gates who discovered the manuscript, and there is a very long introduction which describes how he found it and puts it in context. I didn't really like the way that he had edited the volume however; he left in the strikeouts/corrections/mistakes which made it more difficult to read and follow (there were a lot of these). Whilst I could see the reasoning, I found that it was a less smooth read.

Just the one Virago edition, which I own, above.


  1. I found a copy of this book at a library sale a few weeks ago. It peaked my interest as soon as I read what it was about (I had no idea it was a VMC). I'd never heard of Crafts and apparently many others haven't either as the book had never been taken out. I was also perplexed by Gates' editing. I haven't read much of it though so can't say if I will enjoy it.

  2. I read this book for a class in college (although I had no idea it was a Virago) and found it fascinating. If you're interested in reading more about her, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. also edited "In Search of Hannah Crafts: Critical Essays on the Bondwoman's Narrative."

  3. Leaning - it wasn't a Virago I'd ever heard of and I can't remember now how I obtained it. Let me know what you think when you've readsome more.

    Makedo - thanks, I might check that out.

  4. I just finished reading Hannah Craft's novel; it seems we had opposite reading experiences of this one: I wasn't expecting a rather dry but informative read and ended up being very pleasantly surprised.

  5. ::sigh:: How often do I do that? Say exactly the opposite of what I meant?! I WAS expecting dry and informative: got entertaining and compelling.

  6. BIP - I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'll look forward to reading your review :)