Not often do I say a show was better than the book. Sadly this is one of those times.
I wanted to like this book. I really did. I tried. I absolutely LOVED the show, but for me, the book fell flat. It felt like the book was written after the script, and mostly borrowed from that script without adding anything new to the story. There was no depth, there was no substance.
Also, I had a problem with the way this author compares skin-to-food, amongst using other racist stereotypes in her attempt to show the societal gap.
I tried to give this author the benefit of the doubt—I think what she was trying to do with such offensive phrasings was meant to highlight the fact that, historically, it was normalized to say/think amongst white people who didn’t realize/care what they were saying was offensive…buuuut, when writing HF in this day-and-age, you have to be more present. The woke storyline needs woke language to match it, and in this case, a good idea was ruined by old-fashioned storytelling methods.
This particular HF already attempts to rewrite the past, so I don’t understand why the language couldn’t also be rewritten. She didn’t need to write-in the constant stereotypes as a demonstration—readers already pick up on inequality as a theme without the MCs being SA’d, stereotyped, compared to food, having their skin rubbed off, and just blatantly insulted.
The book attempts to show British society in the 1700s accepting and uniting black people into society but unfortunately is done in such a tasteless and tone-deaf way that I almost stopped reading multiple times throughout the book. It was an ambitious idea that the author cheapened—but it worked really well-on screen (probably because there was a huge team of people who were able to catch and reframe the problematic areas of the story.)
Historically, racism was not cured in this era as the book suggests, but the suggestion is not my issue with the story. It’s historical fiction, and I would have enjoyed it if the POC MCs stories weren’t simply being used here to fetishize black people and erase problematic historical issues.
There is unfortunately a pattern of celebrating and protecting white women authors while not recognizing how their work promotes and reinforces racism. This is sadly one of those works.
I have seen historical fiction with POC characters done so much better and without the constant marginalization and stereotyping and honestly am disappointed in the author after reading the book. Sad.
In short, don’t read the book. Just watch the show.