Brixton 1981. Sixteen year-old Michael is already on the wrong side of the law. In in his community, where job opportunities are low and drug-running is high, this is nothing new.
But when Michael falls for Ngozi, a vibrant young immigrant from the Nigerian village of Obowi, their startling connection runs far deeper than they realise.
Narrated by the spirit of an African woman who lost her life on a slave ship two centuries earlier, her powerful story reveals how Michael and Ngozi’s struggle for happiness began many lifetimes ago.
Through her haunting, lyrical words, one unforgettable message resonates: love, hope and unity will heal us all.
In my last blog post, ‘The eBook Experience’, I mentioned that I read a book that I wouldn’t normally read on my kindle. The book in question was ‘The Book of Echoes’.
Which I absolutely adored.
And I will be buying a physical copy to grace my shelves soon.
Rosanna Amaka is a Black British author who wrote a story about love, hope and resilience that is passed down through generations. I really didn’t think I would love this book as much as I did and I think it’s because it’s a story about the different sides of history and intergenerational trauma. It’s a novel that emphasises that life is about the different choices you make regardless of how small or big they may be.
Initially, the narratives were difficult to grasp. I was easily confused with this omniscient nameless narrator and so, it took a me a while to get into the story. I guess it’s what you would call a slow burner. A novel that you have to stick with in order to truly begin to appreciate the words in front of you. I highlighted so many passages because of the many different messages. This is probably my most highlighted book of 2020, by a mile.
There’s so much that this book discusses in terms of the Black history and the Black community that I’m quite unsure where to start.
“Yeah, you’re right: we all have a culture even us Black British. You can’t properly see it yet because we’re still toddlers in comparison, still need to rely on our parents and grandparents, but slowly we’re learning to walk, to stand on our own two feet, evolving an identity of our own, a culture of our own’ – p.g. 331
This story discusses how Black culture varies from different countries. It was intriguing to see how Amaka discusses the creation of Black British culture – something that is heavily reliant on the cultures of our home countries but also influenced by our experiences in Britain. It’s something Akala talks about in Natives and worth acknowledging.
Michael’s narrative covered the Black Caribbean experience growing up in Britain. This is something that probably holds incredibly dear to my heart because my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation. Especially after my decision to read more books that discuss Black British history, it was nice to read a fiction book that delves deeply into this.
Amaka touched on the Brixton Riots, police brutality in Britain, the unjust imprisonment of Black men, the gentrification of predominant Black areas in London and even the impact of Nelson Mandela’s release from Robin Island had on the Black British population. It’s quite astounding how much she covered through Michael’s narrative and a true testament to her writing.
Whilst she covered the history of Black Caribbean people in Britain, she also looked out intergenerational trauma. She delves deeply into mental health through many of the characters, which is desperately needs to be destigmatised in the Caribbean community especially. I was a bit uncomfortable by Michael’s very obvious self-hatred for his colour. His decision to put down Black women and only date White women with blonde hair and blue eyes was hard to stomach. However, I understood the necessity of it for Michael’s journey to self-love. It seemed that Michael thought that only dating White women that were the opposite to him in every sense would make him more acceptable to society…
When he did discover self-love, I did find his sudden 180 a bit too far. It was as if he was trying to prove to everyone around him that he was Black and he loved being Black. I got the impression that he was still lost and trying to discover himself.
Ngozi grew up in Nigeria and I found her narrative similar to The Girl with the Louding Voice. There’s a sense of helplessness but a determination to prove herself to everyone she knows. I loved her dedication to her family and although, I hated her choices at times. Her naivety was written exceptionally well. Amaka discussed Nigerian culture and the corruptness of the society there. She even highlighted small details such as the mispronunciation of her name from white people.
We get the sense of pain and she harbours a lot of shame because of her conception. Again, the narrative of trauma being passed down is apparent and I ached for her. When she finally got to England and we saw her story begin to change, I was incredibly happy for her. Ngozi was resilient. That’s the only way I can put it. She was knocked down and a million times but she kept getting back up.
The nameless narrator pops back in every now and then. She touches on the passage and even a part of Jamaican history that isn’t talked about often – The Maroons. Being that my mum’s side of the family were maroons, it was really nice to read about it in this novel.
Yes, this story is about intergenerational trauma but Amaka shows that love, all it’s forms, has the power to break that chain of pain. There’s something incredibly powerful with that meaning and something that can be passed down to future generations instead.
Rosanna Amaka poured her heart into her debut book. It’s plain to see.
This was a story about Black history, every side of it and how it spans both distance and time.