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Segu Paperback – September 1, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in an 18h-century African kingdom, Conde's novel examines the cultural transformations brought about by the rise of Islam and the slave trade.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

It is late 18th-century Africa, and change, in the form of slave traders from the west and Islam from the east, is coming to the tribal societies. In Segu, a kingdom near present-day Mali, the family of nobleman Dousika Traore is torn apart by the actions of his four sons: One fights for the old pagan ways, one becomes a Moslem, one is taken to Brazil on a slaver, and one is a mercenary. The customs and beliefs of Segu's Bambara tribe are skillfully woven into the story, and the descriptions of slavery and the slave trade are both compelling and horrifying. As in many sagas with as broad a canvas, the characters are somewhat flat, but fascination with the background will carry the reader. For large fiction collections. Janet Boyarin Blundell, M.L.S. , Brookdale Coll., Lincroft, N.J.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 493 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014025949X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140259490
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ein Kunde on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Segu" is a very good historical novel, one of the few that are set in Africa's historical past (circa 1800-1860). The novel's protagonists are an aristocratic family in the empire of Segu (now part of Mali) swept up in the historical currents of the time: Islam, Christianity, European imperialism, and the Atlantic Slave trade. As with "Roots", the story is told from the African perspective, which is refreshing and much needed. The novel is well written and filled with abundant historical detail. There are many deatils here that a student might research in a library, for example: the different lifestyles of the Fulani and Bambara and relations between them; the "Brazilians" in Africa, former slaves from South America that managed to return to Africa; the socio-economic status of Africans of mixed-(European and African) ancestry.
It seems a pity that many young people are forced to read this book in school; hopefully they will return to it when they have the maturity to understand and appreciate it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ethel M. Powers on June 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I fell in love with the main character. His adventures and misfortunes kept me intrigued. I learned so much about the land and the structures of the different tribes and kingdoms, that I have used the book for reference. I spoke with Ms Conde and told her I was disappointed with the fate of one character and she merely said, "It had to happen." I felt the heat of the land and the warmth of characters and the deep belief in the different faiths of the many regions she covered. This is a must read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Aika Swai (aswai@hotmail.com) on July 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
What an excellent way to incorporate history and anthropology into fiction! I believe that "Segu" is extremely suitable for many history classes as well as literature classes. Often we read history books that become dry and tell us events in chronological order without making the past become real and believable. But "Segu" really captures the reader and provides a very deep insight into the conflict that Islam's jihad, slavery and the 19th century in general brought to Northern Africa. From a historian's point of view, I cannot praise 'Segu' enough; however, there are parts where the quality of fiction sways slightly. The reader feels much closer to the male characters, especially because the fate of the daughters is completely ignored whereas the story keeps on picking up the course of male lives. It would have been very different and also very interesting to see that portion of history through the eyes of the mothers, sisters and wives. On one hand, it makes sense to consider the women as marginal characters because after all, their decisions and opinions were often "less important". But on the other hand, there are other ways of making the gender relationship known. I definetely felt that the female characters hardly developed, whereas the personality of the male characters evolved gradually and very realistically.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
A magnificent source I'd highly recommend is the two book series by the title of "Segu" written by Maryse Conde (great writer) and translated by Barbara Bray. These are 'James Mitchner' type novels, based on historical facts and figures intertwined in an engrossing story that spans several decades/centuries of Africa's rich history. An engrossing, well written, educating, addictive read
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jan Masaoka on December 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
Most of the non-African world is at least slightly familiar with the story of the slave trade . . . but usually starting with the future slaves being loaded onto boats in Africa. What's missing is the highly developed, sophisticated societies and cultures from which these individuals were taken. In addition, nearly all English language historical fiction takes place in Europe . . . but at similar periods of time in Africa there were equally dramatic wars, rises and falls of kingdoms, royal love stories and scandals, brilliant generals and conniving merchants . . . but we haven't heard about them. This book corrects that. Particularly interesting to me was the struggle between the old fetish religion and the new Islamic faith, mirroring the struggle behind paganism and Christianity in Europe. The visit to this world is un-missable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Jacobs VINE VOICE on April 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Amazing in it's historical scope and accuracy, this book pulls one into the life of early West Africa. One of the best books I've ever read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Big Sistah Patty on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Segu was a very good read. I learned of this book when I read Groits: Soul and Sword by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders. Mr. Davis mentioned Segu as being a wonderful historical novel. I would agree with him, though I had one major problem and this is the reason I could not it a five.

Mrs. Conde on numerous occasion implied often that the MOORS were non - African people. This is a historical untruth. So I simply could not give the book a 5 stars for perpetuating a "lie". I suspect this book was intended to read mostly by a non - African readers and she did not want to upset them.

However, I would certainly recommend readers read. I have pointed out the false information. So you want buy into the lie.

I recommend reading The Golden Age of the Moors by Ivan Van Sertima and The Story of the Moors by Stanley Lane Poole if you have an interest of knowing who the real Moors were.

I will say that I did not care for any of the characters. However, that should not stop you from reading this book. I recommend.
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