All posts filed under: Reviews

When The New Mrs Collins moves to town terror follows

Leena has been looking forward to marrying the father of her child since he proposed on bended knee during a vacation in Myrtle Beach. Now the big day has arrived, Leena looks beautiful in her wedding dress, the church is packed with her loved ones, and happily-ever-after is barely a few “I dos” away. Except Leena’s fiancé never makes it to the church. It turns out he’s fallen in love with another woman. A beautiful, poised, accomplished woman called Adira. And instead of running away, shamefaced, Leena’s cheating fiancé moves Adira into town and quickly marries her. It’s a combustible situation, especially in a small, Southern town where people make a point of knowing (and sharing) their neighbours’ business. Leena, hurt and humiliated, cannot let the betrayal go. But when she goes looking for dirt on Adira she uncovers secrets better left hidden and soon understands that it doesn’t pay to anger the new Mrs Collins. Quanie Miller’s Southern Paranormal novel is a fantastically fun read. The narrative tugs you into the close-knit town of …

Louisiana life is bittersweet in Queen Sugar

Charley Bordelon is a widow and single-mother. When she inherits a sugarcane farm from her father she opts to leave her failed life in LA behind, pack up and move in with her grandmother in Louisiana. Unbeknownst to Charley her grandmother has also invited her half-brother, Ralph Angel, to stay – a bitter man angry at being excluded from his father’s will. As tensions escalate at home, Charley must also contend with a host of problems on her new farm. Between the acres of neglected and dying crop and her hostile neighbours both black and white, she soon wonders if this is a feat she can pull off. The notion of a black woman owning a sugarcane farm in the Deep South a century after The Great Migration lends itself wholly to drama and conflict. When you throw in a bunch of charismatic relatives the stakes get even higher and the end result is highly compelling. I found Charley flawed and relatable and could only admire her tenacity: “She joined the crew, pulling armloads of …

Melancholy and magnificent: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

I found I couldn’t read The Twelve Tribes of Hattie as a straight shot. The narrative was so relentlessly bleak I had to take the odd break to remind myself that joy exists in the world. But I returned to the novel eagerly each time, partly because the story is compelling, but largely because the writing is flawlessly beautiful. We first meet Hattie, the title character, at 17-years-old. She’s holed up in the bathroom of her rented house, fighting to save her twin babies from pneumonia. The children, Philadelphia and Jubilee, have been named to reflect Hattie’s hopes for life in the north. She “wanted to give her babies names that weren’t chiseled on a headstone in the family plots in Georgia, so she gave them names of promise and hope, reaching forward names, not looking back ones.” When the babies die, Hattie’s optimism leaves with them. Her grief is compounded by disappointment in her husband. He turns out to be a self-defeating man who drinks his pay cheques and sleeps around with women who …

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah opens with a hair salon and a major turning point. Ifemelu has decided to close her hugely successful blog, break up with her Black American boyfriend, sell her apartment and (after 13 years away) return to Nigeria. She tells herself there’s no specific cause for the move, just “layer after layer of discontent that settled in her, and formed a mass that now propelled her”. But while she sits in the hairdressers having her hair braided for this monumental trip home, she thinks of the Obinze, “her first love, her first lover, the only person with whom she had never felt the need to explain herself”, and it’s clear part of her homesickness is the longing to see her former flame. Impulsively she fires off an email to Obinze informing him of her return. Cut to Obinze who receives her email as he sits in Lagos traffic. From his reaction we know the feelings are mutual, which is complicated since he is now a husband and father. Amidst the turmoil Ifemelu and Obinze fall …

Getting To Happy by Terry McMillan

I wasn’t expecting a sequel to Waiting Exhale. Apparently neither was Terry McMillan. “All four of them got on my last nerve long after their shelf life,” she admits in the Author’s Note. Getting To Happy is a billboard sign advising middle-aged females to take the next slip road off the love quest But 15 years after Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria and Robin finally exhaled around that camp-fire, they’re back. Alas, the years have not been kind to them. Their money’s funny, work is unsatisfying and love has made a fool of them all. If Helena Andrews’ Bitch is the New Black suggested black love was tricky in your 20s, Getting To Happy is a billboard sign advising middle-aged females to take the next slip road off the love quest as they’re likely to have more success hunting down the Holy Grail. The book isn’t a difficult read. McMillan’s energetic, stream-of-consciousness translates into pages that practically turn themselves. But there’s a bitter edge that permeates too much of the novel. If somebody founded an anti-romance movement …

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If you took GCSE English then chances are you’ve read a Mildred D Taylor novel. My sister and I were ahead of the curve. I read everything she read and since our Nigerian parents restricted our movements to school, Safeway and the local library, I’d read everything Taylor had published long before I stepped foot in secondary school. It was in her books I first heard of segregation. It took me a while to make the connection and understand that parallel to the dirt-poor Waltons who lived on Waltons’ Mountain and whom we watched religiously on a Sunday morning, were black communities languishing under the mass deception of ‘separate but equal.’ Yet while Taylor’s narratives engaged me, it was her authorial voice, the musicality of a unique English dialect that enthralled me. She stood on the shoulders of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker in telling stories in that colourful, metaphorical voice intrinsic to the Deep South. I hadn’t planned on reviewing The Help for this site. A story about African American maids written by …