Why this book?
“Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.”
So starts this classic American novel, winner of the 1990 National Book Award, which tells the tale of Rutherford Calhoun, a loveable rogue and newly-emancipated slave in 1830s New Orleans. In an attempt to escape his matrimonially-minded girlfriend, he stows aboard the Republic and finds himself on a voyage to traffic captives from a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri.
What follows is part adventure novel, part slavery narrative, part fable – and a disastrous sea voyage of epic proportions. But what can you expect when you kidnap and enslave a real-life African god?
Middle Passage is brutal and gruesome, featuring cannibalism, rape, murder, and pedophilia alongside the misery of human trafficking. (As Captain Ebenezer Falcon says: ‘There’s not a civilized law that holds water once you’ve put to sea.’)
It’s almost too memorable. Some of these characters and images will never leave you - however much you want them to. Above all, it’s a dazzling, wild ride; a novel of big ideas about morality and responsibility and an inventive commentary on the creaking American republic itself.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books
Winner of the National Book Award 1990
The Apocalypse would definitely put a crimp in my career plans.
Rutherford Calhoun, a puckish rogue and newly freed slave, spends his days loitering around the docks of New Orleans, dodging debt collectors, gangsters, and Isadora Bailey, a prim and frugal woman who seeks to marry him and curb his mischievous instincts. When the heat from these respective pursuers becomes too much to bear, he cons his way on to the next ship leaving the dock: the Republic. Upon boarding, to his horror he discovers that he…