My Name’s Not Friday (by Jon Walter) is an absolutely charming read, which truly captures the black struggle during the American Civil War. When Samuel, a young orphan, is forced into the slave trade, his life turns upside down. He endures harsh labour, cruel punishment and even a close encounter with death, yet he does everything that he can to push on. A moving story which you won’t be able to put down. One of the eight books longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2015, there is no doubt that Walter is an incredible author.

The amount of research that had been conducted into human slavery prior to producing this novel is evident in every line. We learn the harsh reality about the devastating experiences that many had during the Civil War. Like Samuel, many young boys were forced into the trade, their name changed to avoid any suspicion. Walter captures the vulnerability that many felt in one simple quote. Gerald ‘opens it up to show me the bits where the shipwrecked sailor meets a savage on the beach….He thinks I should be pleased, but I scowl’. Gerald assumes that Samuel will be excited to find his name in a book, but instead it reminds him that he is just another slave, another number. Ironically, just like a character in a book, he has no real purpose (other than to work). To add on to this, no other slaves can read, and so cannot understand the true meaning behind the book, representing just how little opportunity many had to learn about the world around them. Walter successfully captures the futility of many slaves’ lives during the Civil War, a concept that is usually difficult to portray through non-fiction.

In addition, with a lengthy list of characters, you would expect for some to be unnecessary or to not quite fit into the plot. Somehow, however, Walter manages to integrate them perfectly, giving each and every one a personality with extreme depth, often forcing us to question their actions and opinions just as though they were real people. We feel a real sense of sympathy towards Samuel (or Friday, as he is otherwise known) which leaves us desperate for a happy ending – arguably, this is eventually achieved, despite a few shortcomings along the way.

If you haven’t already, make sure that you give this book a read. It will inspire you to learn more about the Civil War, and may even provoke you to pick up another of Walter’s texts – which would be a great idea!