Narrated by the spirit of an enslaved African, this is a searing debut about hope, redemption and the scars of history.
Over two hundred years ago in Africa, a woman tosses her young son to safety as she is hauled off by slavers. After a brutal sea passage, her second child is snatched away. Although the woman doesn’t know it yet, her spirit is destined to roam the earth in search of her lost children.
It will make its way to 1980s Brixton, where she watches teenage Michael attempt to stay out of trouble as riots spit and boil onthe streets; and to a poor village in Nigeria, where Ngozi struggles to better her life..
As the invisible threads that draw these two together are pulled ever tighter, The Book of Echoes asks: how can we overcome the traumas of the past when they are woven so inextricably with the present? Humming with horror and beauty, Rosanna Amaka’s remarkable debut marks her as a vibrant new voice in fiction.
The Book Of Echoes was one those novels that could be described as rich. It was rich in narrative, in the many layers that Amaka gave us, and ultimately the two characters she so brilliantly created.
Michael, young, a life blighted by tragedy, responsibility for his younger sister a weight he tried so hard to bear. Caught unknowingly onto the wrong side of the law, lost in 1980’s Brixton, a time of riots and racism from both society and police. You both admired and felt sorry as he tried his utmost, as he searched for his true identity and his purpose. Was his confusion merely, society, or did it hark back to his heritage, his ancestors, the slave ships, that brought them to a new land?
On the other side of the word, Ngozi, sent away to work as a house girl for a wealthy family, to support her poverty stricken family and gain an education. Oh how I loved Amaka’s understanding of Ngozi, again lost, unsure of her place in society.
Her skewed view of men, and her sexuality you could see was driven by a need to support her family but also the past, not just hers but those of countless women before her.
Amaka gave her an inner strength and resolve that pushed her through the hard times, the experiences and trauma gave her the tools by which she learnt, that she would not be like her ancestors but seek and achieve success.
You could see the strong connections between Michael and Ngozi, their shared history, the need to leave the shackles of a past behind, but also remember what others had sacrificed to help them to achieve their own goals.
The voice of the enslaved African women was a wonderfully inventive tool, that added authenticity and an ethereal, almost mystical angle that I loved. It allowed Amaka to show the brutality of the slave trade, the struggle so many had endured. In another way it was almost as if she was a guardian angel that sat on Ngozi and Michael’s shoulders, their guiding light that protected but inspired them to overcome and achieve.
The sights and sounds of Brixton were fantastic, the deprivation, the gangs, the brutality of the law. There was the gentrification of its streets in the 90’s its inherently black community almost forced out, but also more accepted.
Nigeria, hot, and dangerous, the rich powerful, the poor downtrodden with few prospects.
Differing landscapes but it’s people proud, proud of their heritage of their successes and failures.
There was so much within The Book Of Echoes to admire, and I would like to congratulate Rosanna Amaka onsuch a superb debut novel
I would like to thank Doubleday for a copy of The Book Of Echoes to read and to Tabitha Pelly for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to review
About the author
ROSANNA AMAKA was born to African and Caribbean parents. She began writing THE BOOK OF ECHOES twenty years ago to give voice to the Brixton community in which she grew up. Her community was fast disappearing – as a result of gentrification, emigration back to the Caribbean and Africa, or simply with the passing away of the older generation. Its depiction of unimaginable pain redeemed by love and hope was also inspired by a wish to understand the impact of history on present-day lives. Rosanna Amaka lives in South London. This is her first novel.