Review: Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evils of Slavery – Quobna Ottobah Cugoano

Read: 9
To Go: 91

Book List
1. Happy Ever After – Nora Roberts
2. The Bone Cage – Angie Abdou
3. Unless – Carol Shields
4. No Rules…Just Write – C. Noelle Susice
5. All My Friends Are Dead – Avery Monsen and Jory John
6. The Best Laid Plans – Terry Fallis
7. The Case for Falling in Love – Mari Ruti, PhD
8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
9. Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evils of Slavery – Quobna Ottobah Cugoano

(Excuse the blurry picture…I had to work with what Google was able to procure for me.)

After finishing up with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I moved pretty swiftly onto Cugoano’s Thoughts and Sentiments, mainly because I was supposed to have read all 111 pages of it before my Friday afternoon English tutorial. Seemed like a simple task, right?

No. Definitely not.

For a relatively small book – only just over 100 pages – this was the longest, most painful read I have ever endured in my short life. Understandably it would be a tougher text, considering the time period it came from, but still. Someone should have sent Cugoano a polite message, begging him to never write anything ever. Just put the pen down. My sanity would have be better for it.

To summarize, Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evils of Slavery is pretty much exactly what the title implies: his [painfully drawn out] thoughts and sentiments on the evils of slavery. He uses the rhetorical strategy of turning around the arguments of his ‘opponents’ and using them for his own means, frequently draws from religious sources, and exerts his opinion loud and clear through excessive adjective use.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m as glad as the next person that slavery was abolished. I get that this was a proto-slave narrative and a Jeremiad, meant to make the audience feel horrible about themselves while pointing out what a terrible thing slavery really was, but Cugoano could’ve done so much better with it.

The prose itself was awkward overall. There were way too many adjectives being repeated constantly throughout the narrative – he relied on about fifteen or twenty adjectives and made use of them at any and all possible opportunities. Cugoano also seemed incapable of stringing together a sentence that was shorter than five lines long; at one point I found myself reading a paragraph that carried on for three quarters of the page, only to realize that it was all one sentence, strung together by a series of ill-placed punctuation.

The narrative carried on for far too long – again, because of his extremely long and, oftentimes, nonsensical sentences – and could’ve been cut down significantly. All that he needed to say could’ve been said in about 50 pages. It wasn’t worth 100 pages, not at all.

Suffice it to say that Thoughts and Sentiments is not a book that I’d recommend; I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy. It’s a horrible, disjointed read that makes you pray for the sweet release of death. Excellent rhetorical example for nonfiction-based English classes or not, the novel was just painful.

Next novel: Stig of the Dump – Clive King (another children’s lit quick read)

– Kelsey

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