The curious case of Washington Black

Genre: adventure story. ⭐️Stars from Goodreads: 4. ⭐️Stars from me: 3.

To be clear from the very beginning, I didn’t finish the book. I dropped it somewhere in the middle.

General information about Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

This book is about the life and adventures of Washington Black, a man who was born a slave, became a person of science, escaped and travelled the world.

Doesn’t it sound exciting?! I thought so too. Besides, the book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018. Doesn’t it guarantee a good book? Not for me, apparently.

I purchased the ebook together with the audio version. The plan was to alternate between reading and listening. The two versions are synchronised, so you can stop reading and continue listening from the same place where you stopped reading, and vice versa. Future has come!


Even though I thus paid a double price for the story, I knew it would be a bigger loss if I had continued wasting my time on the book. Having dragged through Washington Black for weeks, I finally dropped it.

Not only did I stop reading it, I did it at the moment when the protagonist was in mortal danger. I. did. not. care. That’s how generally boring it was.

What’s so bad about Washington Black

The story

Some descriptions mentioned that Washington Black was “inspired by a true story”. I’m not sure to what extent the story is true, it feels absolutely naive and sugar-coated.

The characters

There is no depth to the characters: villains are villains, good guys are good. The characters are absolutely predictable and do not seem to develop.

The writing

The writing is another curious detail of this book. It tries to be beautiful so it does sound sophisticated but quite pretentious. I see no reason for “the dying gold of morning” at a banal breakfast. To me it looks misplaced, like somebody wearing a ball gown for grocery shopping.

What’s good in Washington Black

Theoretically, a story about a person fighting his way to freedom while crossing different countries and meeting different people, should be interesting.

This theory didn’t work for me.

Final thought on Washington Black

I’m sure the book will find its readers, but I’m not one of them.

6 thoughts on “The curious case of Washington Black

  1. Oh what a shame! You’re right – in theory those ingredients should have made this one a compelling read. Sorry it didn’t work out that way:(.

    1. That’s so interesting, though, how the same book is so perfect for one and is not working at all for another one. What is the book you liked really much, from the recent ones you read?

      1. I just finished THE ENDLESS BEACH by Jenny Colgan, and I really loved that one. It’s chick lit, but it goes into some deeper issues, and rather well, I thought. Plus, the island of Mure that Colgan creates is just magical. 🙂

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