#BookReview: The Forgotten Slaves of Tromelin by Sylvain Savoia

Historical Graphic Novel

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This story takes place on a tiny, far-flung island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, whose nearest neighbor is Madagascar, 500 kilometers away… In 1760, the Utile, a ship carrying black slaves from Africa, was shipwrecked here and abandoned by her crew. The surviving slaves had to struggle to stay alive in this desolate land for fifteen years… When this tale got back to France, it became the cornerstone of the battle of Enlightenment to outlaw slavery. More than two hundred years later, the artist Sylvain Savoia accompanied the first archeological mission in search of understanding how these men and women, who had come from the high mountains of Madagascar, had survived alone in the middle of the ocean. This is the story of that mission, through which we’re exposed to the extraordinary story of the slaves themselves.

Based on the true story of the L’Utile and those who survived its sinking, Sylvain Savoia’s The Forgotten Slaves of Tromelin chronicles a little-known story of cruelty, prejudice, and survival against unimaginable odds. Told in two parts, the book relays its content through both the eighteenth centuries inhabitants of the island and the dedicated research team who pieced together the survivors’ story in the early 2000s.

I personally found Tsimiavo and the historical storyline more compelling than the modern one, but that’s just me. The tenacity of the Malagasy survivors and the brutal realities of their experience were poignantly drawn and while I appreciated the story of the researchers, I must feel it paled in comparison.

The illustrations were not overly detailed, but the artwork is clean. I found the historical storyline easy to follow, but the modern story is illustrated without cell borders with text crammed between images. The end result felt unnecessarily jumbled and took some getting used to. Beyond that, however, I have not complaints with the book and am happy with the time I spent reading it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 15, 2018

What can you think about when you're taken by force towards an unknown fate?