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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Imagine if the transatlantic slave trade was reversed.

Imagine Africans the masters and Europeans their slaves....

Now meet young Doris, living in a sleepy English cottage. One day she is kidnapped and put aboard a slave ship bound for the New World. On a strange tropical island, Doris is told she is an ugly, stupid savage. Her only purpose in life is to please her mistress. Then, as personal assistant to Bwana, Chief Kaga Konata Katamba I, she sees the horrors of the sugarcane fields. Slaves are worked to death under the blazing sun. But though she lives in chains, Doris dreams of escape - of returning home to England and those she loves....

©2020 Bernardine Evaristo (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A phenomenal book. It is so ingenious and so novel. Think The Handmaid's Tale meets Noughts and Crosses with a bit of Jonathan Swift and Lewis Carroll thrown in. This should be thought of as a feminist classic." (Women's Prize for Fiction Podcast) 

"A bold and brilliant game of counterfactual history. Evaristo keep[s] her wit and anger at a spicy simmer throughout." (Daily Telegraph)

"So human and real. Re-imagines past and present with refreshing humour and intelligence." (Guardian

What listeners say about Blonde Roots

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Bafflingly pointless

I made a mistake. A friend recommended Bernardine Evaristo and I clearly should have started with something else, likely the always highlighted "Girl, Woman, Other" ... alas, I saw what Blonde Roots was about, and was instantly intrigued. The idea was promising, for sure: What if the whole world of slavery had been turned upside down, a complete reversal where black people ruled and white people were the slave race. What would such a world have looked like? How would it have been?

Turns out - exactly the same. Exactly. There was no point to this story. None. Everything you know about slavery is, in this book, just as you've known it to be. The abductions, the slave ships, the abuse, the plantations - every horrible truth. It's just that black people are the masters, the slave traders, the violators - and white people are the victims. If all's the same, what's the point? There was nothing new to tell, nothing that was different. The story gives us two points of view, that of a white female slave, her life and escapes, and that of a black leader/slaver, his life and views. Switch skin colors and it would have been a straight-forward tale of slavery times. As a story, it was decent - but I guess it only became something that stood out by switching races, and by attempting to be satirical and 'clever' with similar yet altered naming conventions (such as niggers are now called wiggers).

I was so ready to love this story ... there's nothing clever about Blonde Roots, it's simply a photographic negative of what really happened - and has been told many times in unforgettable ways - instead of this, read Alex Haley's Roots and spend real time with Kunta Kinte.

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  • Taralouise
  • 03-30-21

Brilliant reversal of historical events

If you are reading this you are probably aware that Bernadine Evaristo reimagines a world where it is the technologies of people of colour, located in the Africa continent, where the evolutionary story begins, as she constructs people from that continent as superior to all the other so-called races and it is whyte people, originating from the continent of Europe, who are at the bottom of the evolutionary pile. This means of course that white readers get a taste of enslavement from the perspective of the whyte people from Europa and, in that respect, Evaristo pulls no punches in her detailed descriptions of life on a slave ship and on the plantations.
This is a very creative and clever reversal of historical events and Evaristo goes a long way towards convincing us that the world is very different to the one In which we are currently living. It feels as if a simple geographical twist of fate is what enables the huge shift in the evolution of humankind. Some of the most chilling chapters are the ones in the centre of the book, where the whole horror of scientific racism is reimagined as a process whereby blak people are placed at the top of the evolutionary cycle and whyte people at the bottom, through a whole process of measurement and so-called anthropometrics. It’s a very scary reminder of the scientific racism of the 19th and 20th centuries and every so-called scientist should be forced to read this book, as should every schoolchild, both in Europe and in the United States. This book is an excellent introduction to the horrors of the enslavement of millions of humans, especially if you have bothered to read about these histories is before.

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  • Considered opinion
  • 05-31-22

Good but felt short-changed

Great concept for a story and supported with plenty of detail - albeit making for uncomfortable reading in places. Let down somewhat in the telling by the male narrator - too laboured - I actually found it less irritating when the audio speed was increased to x1.2 for the male voice sections.

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  • Cliente de Amazon
  • 12-24-20

A feat

It made me laugh and cringe, and it didn't let me look away. Superb narration.

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  • C K Lee
  • 09-27-22

A fascinating switch up

Personally, I loved this book. The world the author built was incredibly well done and it was really interesting to think about the other aspects of life that the slave trade had on society, such as the westernised standard of beauty. I loved the way to biological basis for slavery was put across in this book to really demonstrate how anyone can justify slavery if they try and find reasons.

The books ending was a bit disappointing, but the overall book was a great listen.
Anyone saying they don't really see the point in it needs to try and think about the wider implications this book is trying to make.

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  • Samantha abbott
  • 07-07-22

A Must Read/Listen

Absolutely loved this.
If you're white and ever wondered how you'd feel as a slave. Read this. If you're white and haven't thought about it, then you should definitely read this book.
It's poignant, hard hitting and has speckles of humour.
Bernadine writes so wel, the whole book just flows.
Read this book

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  • Al
  • 05-02-22

simply swapping the races makes you think

the simple device of swapping the races, amazingly, has a huge effect on how you understand this horendous chapter of british history. well written, the story explores many of the horrific realities of the western slave trade.

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  • The Shevolutionist
  • 08-28-21

An interesting and alternative slave experience

This author never fails to tell an interesting story. Blonde roots had me captured from the start. Cleverly told that sometimes I forgot it was being told from an alternative perspective of whites being enslaved and blacks as the slave masters. I enjoyed this book, if not slightly disappointed at the end where I hoped for what I felt was an abrupt ending.

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  • SazMcD
  • 06-19-21

Thought-provoking story

Topical and shocking tale of slavery from an upside down viewpoint. It brings home the horror of history and man’s appalling treatment of his fellow man, and woman. A thoroughly gripping story of a heroine I was willing to be free.

Nicely read by both readers, although the bombast of Bwana reminded me of Chris Eubank a bit too much.

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  • Kitty
  • 07-29-20

Blonde Roots

A fascinating flip on a “what might have been” historical narrative of the enslaved experience; And at the same time, a novel that keeps you interested in its characters and their stories.

Not the educational book you want, if you’re looking for the straight enslaved African story, but another great book from Bernardine Evaristo!

Listened to in one sitting!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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  • NotsoNutso
  • 09-04-21

DNF - inconsistent and lacking originality

As the title suggests I did not finish this story. I persisted until about two-thirds of the way through and just could not get over the major issues that I had with the story. This is my first experience with the author and based on other reviews I will still try her other work but am so far unimpressed.

To me this book had an excellent premise, race reversal, and I hoped that this would provide a vehicle with which to explore an alternate history of the slave trade but, unfortunately it did not carry this off. The book relied too heavily on the premise and simply reversed all of the common traits of slavery to a different race.

A frustrating element of the book was the consistent use of anachronisms which broke the immersion of the world. These ranged from a feudal society existing at the same time as trains and electronic music to references to scientific concepts that the characters could not have known. For a world that struggled to hold itself together these regular jarring points compounded the problem.

It is worth noting that I suspect some of the timeline inconsistencies were intentionally included in order to highlight the fact that human brutality transcends time and societies but again I don’t feel that this story achieved this.

Another aspect of the story that was a fun idea but too heavily leant into was the editing of historically European place names. Unfortunately, this idea lead to laundry lists of plays on words from the capital city Londolo to the ‘Africanising’ of every stop along a train line. While initially interesting this ends up feeling as if the author didn’t have the energy to source traditionally African places or naming styles or was trying to lean too hard on the reversal of history concept to be convincing.

A positive note for this book was definitely the narration. Charlotte Beaumont did an excellent job providing a consistent narrative voice, particularly when you realise that the actual text uses a difficult to parse phonetic spelling at times.

Overall, there are other frustrating elements of the book, and some good aspects too, but I feel as if this book missed the mark for me. I wouldn’t personally recommend the story but evidently there are plenty of people who would so there is value to be found in the story.

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  • Isabel
  • 08-20-21

Mostly great

Interesting plot and a rollicking tale but the start of the narration by Ben Arogundade was a bit labored - really trying too hard to ram home the point of the whole story. It seemed quite unnecessary to me. Great story otherwise

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-09-21

memorial book

This book was memorable for its differences. It was a complete surprise. Loved every minute.

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