The year is 1855. Blackface minstrelsy is the most popular form of entertainment in a nation about to be torn apart by the battle over slavery. Henry Sims, a fugitive slave and a brilliant musician, has escaped to Philadelphia. He is befriended by a leader of a popular minstrel troupe struggling to compete with similar ensembles. Henry's skill could help the struggling troupe. Black and white performers are not allowed to appear together onstage.
Together, the two concoct a masquerade to protect Henry's identity. Even as their plan begins to reverse the troupe's decline, a brutal slave hunter named Tull Burton has been employed to track down the runaway and retrieve him by any means necessary.
A beautiful and moving story. I only wish the songs have been actually performed on the audiobook.
What did you like best about A Free State? What did you like least?
I enjoyed the portrait of Philadelphia and the minstrel bands in the pre Civil War era
Would you recommend A Free State to your friends? Why or why not?
Probably not. The book dealt with some important themes of the pre Civil War era but did not develop them leaving me a bit dissatisfied.
Any additional comments?
This book is a fictional representation of a slave (Henry) who escapes to freedom and the north but is hunted by a slave catcher. Henry is musically talented and very smart setting up a fictional opportunity to examine stereotypes of the era and how that might have played out on both the slave owners and the slaves. The premise and setting were promising but the author did not delve into these interesting issues making it a little disappointing. The narration was excellent, and in spite of these problems with the book, my interest was engaged throughout. In fact I was a little surprised when it suddenly ended. there is lots of material here that just wasn't developed.