Washington Black is long-listed for the Man Booker prize this year. It’s a genre-bending adventure story, which uses shades of fantasy to pose an entertaining exploration of the nature of freedom: racially, psychologically and emotionally. ‘Wash’ is an eleven-year-old slave on a plantation in the early eighteenth century. The novel starts with this grim reality, but changes tack dramatically with the arrival of the plantation owner’s brother, Titch. Titch is a man of Science and is creating a wondrous ballooned airship. He enlists the help of Wash as his assistant, and so opens the door to a different world for the boy. Wash learns the rudiments of science, and discovers his passion for drawing and art. When the brothers’ rivalry becomes a threat to Wash, he and Titch escape in the balloon ‘Cloud Cutter’. From here the story dips and swerves as they travel the world, in increasingly far-fetched adventures. But through these Wash gradually learns to reclaim his life as a free man. This is a journey of discovering identity, as well as an evaluation of the notion of freedom: its exhilarations, but also its limitations, and the fear it can induce. Vivid and movingly written.