Saturday, January 14

Book Review: Oroonoko and Other Writings

Title: Oroonoko and Other Writings

Author: Aphra Behn

Pages: 268

Summary: Aphra Behn (1640 - 89) achieved both fame and notoriety in her own lifetime, enjoying considerable success for her plays and for her short novel Oroonoko, the story of a noble slave who loves a princess. Acclaimed by Virginia Woolf as the first English woman to earn her living by pen, Behn's achievements as a writer are now acknowledged less equivocally.

As well as Oroonoko, this volume contains five other works of fiction: The Fiar Jilt, Memoirs of the Count of the King of Bantam, The History of the Nun, The Adventure of the Black Lady, and The Unfortunate Bride, and a generous selection of her poetry.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While I enjoyed all the short stories to some degree, I have to say Oroonoko wasn't one of my favourites, in fact I think the other short fiction and poetry showcased the author's talent far better than Oroonoko, which is what she seems to be known for. Perhaps it was the expectation of something that would be fantastic, but I found the Fair Jilt, The History of the Nun, The Black Lady and The Unfortunate bride to be more enjoyable reads.

The content of all the stories shows characters, slightly ahead of the their time. The hero in Oroonoko is proof of that, and so is the woman in the Fair Jilt. The author took careful care in structuring her characters and stories. I enjoyed the focus on the woman at times, and how they weren't always portrayed as the conventional woman during that time period - the women in the Fair Jilt and History of the Nun are good examples of this.

I enjoyed the writing, but because it was written so long ago, I think a lot of it's original elegance and emphasis was lost. Her prose in her poetry writing was good. I did enjoy the poems, although generally I enjoy a more free style or descriptive poems, than the format Behn used, but for the most part I enjoyed them.

Overall I enjoyed the collection, but it wasn't what I was expecting, but I still have a lot of respect for the author for being so daring in what she wrote during the late 17th century. And she was one of the first woman writers to make it in the world and is still studied today.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, this particular collection is worth reading, since it gives you a taste of the different types of works she wrote, novellas, short stories and poetry. I wasn't amazed or gripped by it, but I enjoyed the collection, and I think a lot of readers would too.

What to read next: Virginia Woolf, and other woman writers who were/are ahead of their time.

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, 1001 Books Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Authors Challenge


  1. I read this in university and hardly remember it. I still have my copy. I should reread it one day.

  2. Kalina - If you copy has the extra stories than it is definitely worth re-reading

  3. definitely sounds fascinating! I was unfamiliar with this classic, thanks for the post.

    1. I was unaware of it as well until I was scanning through the 1001 books to read before you die book and found it, among others. Hope you get a chance to enjoy it.