Book Review

Review – The Lamplighter by Jackie Kay


In The Lamplighter award-winning poet and Scottish Makar Jackie Kay takes us on a journey into the dark heart of Britain’s legacy in the slave trade.

First produced as a play, on the page it reads as a profound and tragic multi-layered poem. We watch as four women and one man tell the story of their lives through slavery, from the fort, to the slave ship, through the middle passage, following life on the plantations, charting the growth of the British city and the industrial revolution. Constance has witnessed the sale of her own child; Mary has been beaten to an inch of her life; Black Harriot has been forced to sell her body; and our lead, the Lamplighter, was sold twice into slavery from the ports in Bristol. Their different voices sing together in a rousing chorus that speaks to the experiences of all those brutalised by slavery, and lifts in the end to a soaring and powerful conclusion. 

Stirring, impassioned and deeply affecting, The Lamplighter remains as essential today as the day it was first performed. This is an essential work by one of our most beloved writers.

My Review:

My goodness, my goodness! I don’t really know what to say apart from the fact that this book has completely broken me. Definitely one of my very favourite reads this year! It was so affecting I didn’t know what to do with myself. I finished The Lamplighter by Jackie Kay in 2 hours. It was only 112 pages but what was told in those 112 pages affected me deeply. Four women, four voices. The dark history of slavery trade. Their stories of being captured, of being sold, of being abused, of being completed degraded were so painful to read. Once you read it, you cannot unread it, it would stay with you forever. Not to haunt you but to remind you how far we have come from ending the slavery trade but also how far we are yet to go.

I am speechless. I cannot recommend this book enough. Once you have read it, please let me know if you are feeling the same turmoil I am feeling, if you are feeling just as angry as I am, and if you are feeling helpless and as sad as I am… 😭my heart…

Thank you so much Pan Macmillan and Camilla for this incredible book!

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