#2 Discover 10 Iconic Authors of Colour
Original. Cutting. A fly-on-the-wall view of the immigrant experience in all its complexities and absurdities.
This is an epic read in length (some 500pages in my edition).
We follow the lives of Archie and Samad. They are two unlikely friends who re-meet in London in the 1970s. Samad and Archie served together in the second world war and the chapters devoted to their memories and what happened between them during the war, were my favourites. I think this is because it's the part of the book where I found the most warmth.
Archie and Samad both find wives. They have children who know each other. We get to know each of these people in detail - the wives, the children, the friends of the wives, the friends of the children, as well as a host of other characters that move in and out of their lives. In fact, there is so much detail on each person, at times I felt bogged down and had to stop reading.
However, detail is also the author's strong point and this detail is used to show us humour, irony at situations which race and racism place the characters in, the difficulties of immigrant families, religion and how it can turn into dogma, fate and odd circumstances and the way events from the past seem to shape the present.
I liked this book, though there were parts I didn't like because they were too long. The ending worked for me because all the threads came together to bring closure to each and every character's story - some of these endings were good and others were bad.
This was my second Zadie Smith, so I was well prepared for the slow pace of the prose and the detailed meandering through the lives of several characters.
We follow the friendship of two girls - they grow up in one of the poorer parts of London, both have dreams of fame and dance success and of breaking out of the confines of racial stereotyping.
The issues of racism are well explored and expanded to include West Africa, where the main character ends up working on a development project spearheaded by her superstar boss.
There are lovely nuances between all the characters, though, strangely, at the end I felt it was the main character whom I knew the least (she is never named) - whereas her best friend Tracey, her mother, her boss, the African friends she makes in the village and her colleagues are well drawn. This was a little frustrating and I wondered why the author had chosen not to tell us more about the heart of this main character.
I enjoyed reading this book though I think it's less of a story and more of a touching exposition on the interactions between ordinary people.
#1 Discover 10 Iconic Authors of Colour
A wonderful book.
This was the second time I read this book and after a space of some fifteen years, I can say I understood it much more deeply than I did before.
Though the racism is full of pain and pulls no punches on the drudgery and sheer survival of black people, I found it uplifting this time around and saw the positive side. Alice Walker understands and portrays the strength of the human spirit to endure.
I really loved the ending.
Here's my ultra short book review/haiku -
A woman's tale
on the politics of black
Georgia,1930s, grit, faith
survival - told from the heart
Good Girl Bad Girl is a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award Montaigne Medal.
This prestigious award is given annually to small and independent presses.
The results will be due in a few months and I'll keep you posted.
Happy International Women's Day everyone!
Once, for International Women's Day, I sang the South African national anthem with a group of women friends.
We did it to show solidarity with the ending of apartheid and the coming into power of Nelson Mandela.
It seems ages ago and my student days are long gone!
These days I'm often left stumped about how to mark the occasion - though not today - today I shall mark the day by starting to read Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich.
Erdrich is one of those authors I've been waiting to read and this is the first novel in her Native American series.
About forty minutes drive from my house, this is 'La Petite Camargue' - a lovely landscape of marshes and lakes. Plus there's a great cycle track for roller blading with my daughter!
Eyes Like Mine
by Sheena Kamal
I really wanted to like this book and worked hard to get to know the main character, Nora. I really like 'bad' characters and thought this one would be up my street.
Unfortunately, whilst I got to like Nora, the story and the writing style didn't work for me. I have to say, I found Nora's mixture of alcoholism and general aggressiveness a bit too much and her abuse of another character in the book (Bradzuca), really turned my stomach.
The final scenes were, frankly, unbelievable, so, sorry, this wasn't for me.
What I did find impressive was the originality of the style and the originality of the main character and I have to congratulate the author for that.
(I received a copy of this book from NetGalley)
#6 Discover Ten New Authors of Colour
Either erotica is your thing or it isn’t, and, well, sometimes it is mine.
Here’s a book that’s a mixture of erotica, African folklore and fantasy.
Give yourself a treat and try this heady, powerful novella.
Abiku: A Battle of Gods by Elizabeth Salawu
She was called an Abiku, an evil spirit sent to this world to lure men to their doom
Dayo is a bi-racial twenty-something year old with a German mom and a Nigerian dad. She has a semi bougie lifestyle, always jetting across the pond between Africa and Europe.
She starts dating her father's driver in secret after seducing him.
On her return from her cousin's twenty-first birthday, she tries gbana (crack) for the first time. She finds herself in an alternate realm and thinks she's hallucinating from using gbana. She doesn't take anything that happens there seriously as she thinks she's having a vivid dream. That is, until she couldn't wake up from getting married to a 'man' she met in that realm...
Ann Girdharry’s View
A highly original story that blends eroticism, Nigerian folklore and a young woman's dual life. I’ve never come across anything similar.
Dayo comes from a rich family and has a privileged lifestyle. Once free from her parents' supervision, she seduces her father's chauffeur and they start a hot, steamy affair.
Things start becoming strange when sex and drugs seemingly push Dayo into another realm. It's a mythic realm in which she begins an affair with a man who appears to be a god.
Is she hallucinating? Has she gone mad? What’s real and what isn’t real?
As the story spins out, Dayo has some tough choices to make, but she’s a tough young woman, so don’t think the odds are all stacked against her.
This book touches on notions of African beauty, and portrays a different view of attractiveness.
The erotic scenes are well written and the first half of the book is particularly powerful.
Photoshot of Elizabeth Salawu
Five Things You Didn’t Know about Elizabeth Salawu
1.I record my podcase (The Segilola Salami Show) in my bedroom whilst wearing my PJ.
2. I love jollof rice and fried plantain (Nigerian jollof is the best).
3. The only place I can imagine spending 365 days in at a stretch is London.
4. Every time I re-read Abiku: A Battle of Gods, I say to myself, “Wow, did you actually write that?”
5. Whilst pregnant, I decided I was only going to breastfeed my daughter for one month but somehow I ended up doing it for two years eheheheh
Thanks for letting me review your book and for talking to us today, Segilola (Elizabeth Salawu). You can check out more about Segilola here
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
This is essentially a story about 9/11, its aftermath and the on-going war against terrorism. The story is based in the USA, though there is plenty of travel to countries such as Afghanistan, Turkey, Greece and Libya. We follow the lives of two men.
The first is Pilgrim, who is a secret agent for a division of the American secret service few have heard of. He’s a master of his craft and an expert in the investigation of crime scenes. The second man we follow is the Saracen.
The book is made of four parts and pretty much the first three parts are background and set-up to the main story which arrives in part four.
In the first three parts, we learn about Pilgrim – his childhood, his foster parents, his life as an agent and his rise to fame amongst the ranks of agents, his doubts and fatigue at the relentless pace of his job. We learn about Saracen – his childhood and his hatred of the Saudi royal family and of America, his recruitment and years spent fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians, his one-man, demonic plot against the US homeland and his determination to see this succeed. There are some horrific scenes of torture and violence that the reader witnesses.
Some people might find the hundreds of pages of backstory and detail difficult to get through.
I liked finding out about these two men and the forces which shaped them. They are both intensely human and we get to know their thoughts and see inside their minds. It’s not always comfortable, but it was always interesting, maybe even riveting.
Part four is where the story really kicks off and all the many threads of the previous three sections come into play. People that Pilgrim and the Saracen have met have an influence on the final acts in the book as the tension mounts. Memories and tiny incidents which we know about (but Pilgrim and Saracen may have dismissed) take their place to try to tip the hand of fate one way or the other. This was well done. I always admire an author who gives attention to detail and Hayes is good at this.
Given that the big overview of the story is 9/11, its aftermath and the war against terrorism in the USA – of course, the story has a main path to follow. Of course, Pilgrim is the hero. At the end, he’s practically a super-man and close to death, he speaks to the President of the United States and is called ‘a hero’. We also get to know a real hero of 9/11 in the character of Ben Bradley. Ben is a NYPD cop who befriends Pilgrim (and inspires him) and I enjoyed reading about Ben and his wife.
Xenophobia, racism and constant negative commentary
My main problem with this book was the constant racism/xenophobia/negativity about numerous cultures and people of the world. All except the Americans. (Actually, in one incident an Australian UN unit also gets some praise, but, oh yes, Hayes is from Australia isn’t he?)
Whether it’s the Turkish people, the Greeks, the Afghans, the Persian empire, the Syrians, the Libyans – you name it and Pilgrim has some negative or snide or suspect comments to make.
Often these are tiny and conversational and part of his internal dialogue as he assesses situations and intelligence assignments. They could go unnoticed, I suppose, because they are not at all the main meat of the book. Rather, they are its constant and unpleasant undercurrent.
At first, I clocked Pilgrim’s little asides and ignored them. But as they added up, it was like the dripping of a tap – Pilgrim just couldn’t resist drawing us into his xenophobic world. In the end, after some six hundred pages of it, I’m sorry to say I couldn’t stand it any longer.
Of all the books I’ve read in the last few years, I’ve not come across this problem before.
I understand that many won’t share this opinion and I want to be clear that I’m not talking about the big story of Pilgrim versus Saracen. I’m talking about the internal values and dialogue of Pilgrim, for instance when he walks into a Turkish village and assesses his surroundings, or arrives at a crime scene and thinks something about the personnel working the case. What a shame.
It totally spoiled what could have been an excellent book.
hello January 2017
A beautiful winter's day at La Grande Motte - one of my favourite seafront walks and perfect inspriration for a day of writing.
Void by David Staniforth
A void in one’s memory is filled with more than the fear of not knowing, it swirls with the dread of what those missing memories might contain.
When a young man wakens in a freezing car, his mind a complete blank, he embarks upon a journey that brings that very dread to the fore. Who is he? What has he done? Where does he belong? Why can he not remember?
VOID: a psychological journey of discovery that forces the question: To what extent can our memories be trusted?
What I liked best about this book was the atmosphere and tone. It stays grey throughout, as the author keeps us balanced on the edge of disaster. Everything is murky and the facts stay unclear and this is matched by the bleak world ‘Tom’ finds himself in - cold and foggy and lonely.
There’s an intensity, as the main character pieces together the clues about who he might be and what sort of a man he’s been.
It’s surprising, but there’s a strong romantic thread to this story too, because Tom discovers a memory of love and that there might be a woman who loves him. Despite his fears about himself, Tom shows himself to be sensitive and loyal and this made me like him a lot.
One small thing which didn’t work for me, was the way the author writes about the importance of music to Tom and quotes lyrics. And since you know how I can be picky, I also thought there was a tad too much repetition which made the middle of the book a bit soggy.(These really were minor issues.)
The ending was a tragic surprise and gave the whole story another perspective. I don’t want to spoil it by saying more.
I can see why this is classed as a thriller but I think romantic thriller does it more justice – the story has a lot more subtlety and meaning than most thrillers on the shelf and I think that’s it’s strong point.
Photoshot of David Staniforth
Five Things You Didn’t Know about David Staniforth -
1. At the age of eight, I took part in a school television programme with celebrated botanist, David Bellamy. I was on camera for around a minute, so I reckon I’m still owed four minutes of fame.
2. At the age of eighteen, I almost died from alcohol poisoning.
3. Had I performed better in my O Levels, I would likely have become an architect and my life would have followed a completely different course, one in which I probably would not have discovered my love of writing.
4. My favourite ever song is ‘Stone in Love’ by Journey. It reminds me of the early years with the girl I met when I was nineteen, who I’m still married to thirty-four years later. There’s a line that goes “burning love comes once in a lifetime” and for me it has.
5. I read my own books for pleasure, enjoying them as if they had been written by somebody else.
Thanks for letting me review your book, David, and for telling us about yourself.
You can check out more about David Staniforth here
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