Review: The Freedman: Tales From a Revolution - North-Carolina

Audiobook cover of The Freedman: Tales From a Revolution - North-Carolina. A pair of manacles hang in front of a brick wall. The Freedman: Tales From a Revolution - North-Carolina by Lars D.H. Hedbor.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 5 hrs 19 mins.

The Freedman by Lars D H Hedbor is the story of 'Jupiter' Calabar, a former slave who was cast out from the plantation he had worked since childhood. Separated from his wife and infant daughter, Calabar is forced to find his way in the world as a freedman, with only six months grace before he must move on from the colony and make his way out into an America on the brink of revolution.

As a Brit, my knowledge of the American War of Independence is woefully limited. (I've never been able to bring myself to invest in the plight of people who could waste good tea like that...) So it is fair to say that this audiobook isn't my usual listening. I was drawn in by the fact that this story details the Revolution through the eyes of a former slave, a freedman, rather than a soldier or rebel. The impact of such a turbulent time in history on someone whose position in society was already so vulnerable intrigued me, but I prepared myself for it to be unflinchingly bleak. It was perhaps because of this preconception that I found the small moments of compassion so touching. Cooper's assistance in helping Calabar integrate into society as a freedman was touching given the rarity it would have been at the time. And when the milliner, Albright, gives Calabar his first hat - something that helps mark him out as a freedman rather than a runaway - that simple kindness is a braver, bolder gesture than any of the political posturing occurring in the background. The humanity these men demonstrate at a time of such burgeoning destruction was a light in the dark.

Calabar's lesson in politics and culture from Mr Albright helped me understand the wider context of the events, and the ways in which the motivations of the different sections of society at the time intersected. Because Calabar's ignorance so neatly mirrored my own, his education was just as enlightening for me.

I found this book much easier to listen to and far more engrossing than I had expected. I enjoy learning about historical events in both fiction and non-fiction, so I'd felt sure it would be interesting but was not prepared for the required concentration to feel so effortless. This is always a sign of a well paced, well plotted story, and a talented narrator.

Shamaan Casey has a rich, deep, voice with a fullness and complexity that suited this audiobook very well. Casey is pleasant to listen to and was able to retain my attention with his vivid portrayal of a cast of characters whose experience is so far removed from my own.

I'd recommend this audiobook to anyone with an interest in the American Revolution, and to those like myself who wished to learn more about the war and the history of slaves and freedmen in that period. Theirs are the voices we still do not hear with enough clarity, even today. I was very glad to have an opportunity to reflect upon their stories vicariously through Calabar's experience, which was especially relevant given that it is currently African American History Month in America.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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