Genevieve Valentine's latest novel is Icon.
Mary Prince's story is, in some ways, a familiar narrative. Born a slave around 1788, she was abused by a mistress, Mrs. Wood — beaten, forced to work when ill, refused the chance to buy her freedom. Eventually, she sought emancipation on English soil. When she declares "All slaves want to be free — to be free is very sweet," it feels of a piece with the general story we, as a nation, are told about black women in the 19th century: downtrodden, then free.