Like no poetry you've ever known before, Fred D'Aguiar's novel-in-verse sweeps you up in the scintillating story of a young female slave who falls in love with the son of the plantation owner and runs away with him in search of a new life. En route they are rescued by an old man who has organised a secret underground railroad to help slaves escape, but they become separated from each other: faith, the woman, is sold back into slavery and Christy, her lover, punished with forced labour. The novel is narrated by their son who is stuck in time until their story is told. Using the intricate rhyme-scheme of Byron's wonderfully picaresque Don Juan, D'Aguiar wittily plays with language to create poetry that is dazzling in its inventiveness whilst being utterly readable. Despite the seriousness of its subject matter, "Bloodlines" is full of humour, satire, experiment and, above all, life. Its characters are, like the language, brim-full of energy and very sympathetic as they struggle against vicissitude. Read this book fast like a novel, savour every word like a poem, do both, the choice is yours.
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Fred D'Aguiar was born in Guyana in 1960 and was raised in South-east London and Guyana. He has held several writing residences, including Northern Arts Literary Fellow, and now divides his time between London and Florida, where he teaches English at the University of Miami. He has been awarded the TS Eliot Prize for poetry, the Guyanese National Poetry Award and the Malcolm X prize for poetry. He also won the 1994 Whitbread First Novel Award and the David Higham Award for The Longest Memory.From Publishers Weekly:
D'Aguiar (Feeding the Ghosts; The Longest Memory) uses the form of an epic poem to eloquently convey two generations of oppression and sacrifice. The 19th-century narrator, who remains nameless, employs modern language and metaphors to tell his story, beginning with his conception and continuing through the tragic separation of his parents: his mother, a slave, and his father, a plantation owner's son. But this is sophisticated material: what begins as a rape evolves into a romance ("This is the nature of sweet transgression:/ after the fact bodies become solicitous;/ black and white locked in illegal passion"), and the two flee the plantation together. They are captured and humiliated by white men she is raped repeatedly, sold and taken west; he is bound and defiled. Throughout the 10 sections of the poem, the narrator's voice intermingles with the mournful songs of his 17-year-old mother, Faith, who dies in childbirth, and his father, Christy, who becomes a traveling fighter after Faith's return to slavery. Traditional poetic structures frame the vibrant, contemporary language ("Her love did more damage to her body/ than all the lyrics in all the pop songs slammed/ together have done to a sentimental boy/ or girl in suburbia on a diet of MTV jams") and powerful images of loneliness ("I am stripped bare by the light, bare and/ lonely, my bones wrung clean, the clean/ bones ground to dust, scattered in the four winds"). This saga of a man shunned by society will long echo in readers' minds. Ages 14-up.
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