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The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (@abidare_author) An emotionally enriching experience

Hi all:

I bring you a debut novel I’ve really enjoyed by an author I’m sure we’ll keep hearing about.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

The Girl with the Louding Voice: Shortlisted for the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize by Abi Daré

AS RECOMMENDED BY MALALA YOUSAFZAI
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

STYLIST BEST BOOK OF 2020

‘A stunning novel – original, beautiful and powerful’ Rosamund Lupton

Meet Adunni, a teenage girl born into a rural Nigerian village.

Aged fourteen, she is a commodity, a wife, a servant.

She is also smart, funny, curious, with a spirit and joy infectious to those around her.

And despite her situation going from bad to worse, she has a plan to escape: she will find her ‘louding voice’ and get her education, so that she can speak up for herself – and all the girls who came before her.

As she turns enemies into friends and superiors into aides, Adunni will take you with her on a heart-breaking but inspiring journey from a small village to the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, and show you that no matter the situation, there is always some joy to be found.

‘A story of courage that will win over your heart‘ Stylist

‘An unforgettable novel’ Jeanine Cummins

‘A sparkling debut . . . marks the appearance of a strong and stylish new talent’ Harper’s Bazaar

‘A true original, this will open your eyes‘ Cosmopolitan

The BBC Radio 2 Book Club featuring THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE is now available to listen to on BBC Sounds.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SD4XJDQ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07SD4XJDQ/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B07SD4XJDQ/

Author Abi Daré

About the author:

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and has lived in the UK for over eighteen years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an MSc in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University as well as an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London. The Girl with the Louding Voice won the Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2018 and was also selected as a finalist in the 2018 Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two daughters, who inspired her to write her debut novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Abi-Dar%C3%A9/e/B083M6857Y/

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review, and I am happy I’ve been given this opportunity.

This is one of those books best enjoyed by immersing yourself in it. It is one of those novels that you can see with your mind’s eye and you can imagine being right next to the protagonist (it is narrated in the first person by Adunni, a fourteen-year-old girl with a very special voice) as the action happens, and you’d love to be able to advise or help her, to protect her from some of the things she has to go through and to warn her at times when she does something foolish. This is not a novel constructed for an analytical mind, where everything fits in neatly; all the characters are consistent throughout; there is not a paragraph of excess information; and where clichés and common places are avoided like the plague. Reading it, I got the feeling that this was a book written with the heart (and the author, in the acknowledgements, explains her process quite well), and it pulls at one’s heartstrings. It’s an emotional experience.

In this debut novel, we witness the coming of age of the main character, Adunni, who has to experience things that will be completely alien to most readers (we might have read about them, but, thankfully, many of us have never been exposed to them). Although this is no mystery novel, I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot. There is child marriage, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation and servitude (she calls it “slavery without the chains” and it is quite an apt description), cheating and lies, poverty and desperation, and a fascinating look at Nigeria and at the huge contrasts there, from outright poverty to extreme wealth.  We have a mix of rural customs and traditions with high-tech and modernity, and a society where women are still subservient to men, and where education, rather than a right, is a privilege, especially if you’re a woman.

Adunni is a wonderful character. She has lost her mother to illness when we meet her, and she has become a mother to her younger brother, but still misses her own mother, who instilled in her the importance of getting an education and having her own voice. Unfortunately, her father does not keep his promise to his dead wife and decides to try to solve his financial difficulties by marrying his daughter to a much older man (she is to be the man’s third wife, as he wants to have a son, and that has not happened yet). Nobody seems to understand her reluctance to marry, as many of her friends see this as an opportunity, their best option, and their fate. You won’t be surprised if I tell you her marriage proves to be a harrowing experience, although she gets on well with the man’s second wife, who becomes a friend and mother-figure to her. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse, she has to run away and ends up as a servant to a rich woman in Lagos. I wouldn’t say she jumps from the frying pan to the fire, but there is little to choose from between the two situations. What makes Adunni particularly endearing is the fact that through all her troubles she remains optimistic. She gets scared at times, she freezes and does not know what to do (and often takes rushed decisions she lives to regret), she talks too much and gets herself into trouble often (even when she thinks ‘I shouldn’t say that’, she often says it anyway), but even though she does not always do what is best for her, she tries hard to help others and at times puts herself at risk to defend others. She is also eager to learn and will take any opportunity to try, sometimes with hilarious results. She is innocent regarding certain things (she understands how rural society and things in her village work, but is totally naïve as to the workings of a great city), and also gives everybody the benefit of the doubt, always thinking the best of people, even after they disappoint her time and again. She misunderstands many things (she does think her English is much better than it really is, and her attitude towards the language endeared her to me, also a non-native English speaker), but she is never afraid to ask or question what she doesn’t understand, even when her questions are not welcomed. More than anything, she is a credible fourteen-year-old, who thinks she knows more than she knows, who has had to grow fast because of her circumstances, but still misses and needs her mother.

There are many other characters, most pretty memorable. If we think of the story like the typical quest (the hero’s journey concept), there are some characters who get in the way of Adunni achieving her dream, many horrendous (her husband, big Chief, Kola, his husband’s first wife, and Florence, her boss, although we get to understand that they are also victims of their circumstances), some misguided or unable to see beyond the conventions (like her father), and others who help her move on, like Ms Tia and Kofi. Ms Tia made me think of a fairy godmother (and there is plenty of Cinderella in the story and other readers have mentioned similarities to other books), but we do get to learn about her personal circumstances as well, and the relationship benefits both of them, as Ms Tia also learns things about herself in the process. Although the plot is not original, and yes, there are many similarities with other stories and books, the character’s voice and the way she touches everybody around her make it a compelling story and a delight to read.

I’ve mentioned that Adunni narrates the story in the first-person, but she uses broken English that can be jarring to begin with (as an English teacher I couldn’t help but keep correcting her grammar in my head), but I think it communicates clearly the character’s circumstances and serves her well to analyse and wonder at the world around her. She is very witty and comes up with some wonderful similes and comparisons when she first comes to the city, a completely new experience for her.  And she can communicate her feelings and describe them beautifully, even with her limited English. For example, at the beginning of the book, when her father is telling her about his plans for her marriage, she thinks: ‘But sometimes, like today, the sorrow climb out of my heart and stick his tongue in my face.’ Her mother’s advice to her is probably the most quoted fragment of the book: ‘Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk. It will be speaking till the day God is calling you come.’ And, if you’re wondering where the title comes from…I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.’ I know some readers have found the writing style off-putting, so I definitely recommend anybody thinking of purchasing and reading the book to check a sample first.

Some readers have complained about the ending. They feel it seems a bit too neat, rushed, and it does not seem to fit in with the rest of the story, but this is one of these books where you’re rooting for a character, and a hopeful and positive ending is the minimum she deserves. As I said, there is something of the fairy tale in the story, but the character works hard, studies, makes a big effort, and grows and evolves, without losing her hope and her enthusiasm, and hey, I enjoyed the ending. It might not feel realistic, but this is not that kind of novel.

I recommend this novel to readers interested in learning more about Nigeria and happy to accompany a delightful main character in her journey. She goes through some terrible experiences, so this is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one. Make sure the writing style works for you, but if it does and you like the sound of it, go for it. It will pull at your heartstrings, and you’re likely to find a new favourite author. I will be eagerly waiting for her next book.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Newbook MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite (@OyinBraithwaite) (@doubledaybooks) Domestic noir, dark humour, and a fantastic new voice

Hi all:

I was intrigued by this book from the moment I saw it…

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“Feverishly hot”–PAULA HAWKINS

“The wittiest and most fun murder party you’ve ever been invited to.”–MARIE CLAIRE

A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

https://www.amazon.com/My-Sister-Serial-Killer-Novel-ebook/dp/B079WNMQ4V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Sister-Serial-Killer-Feverishly-ebook/dp/B07D7KJV13/

Editorial reviews:

“This riveting, brutally hilarious, ultra-dark novel is an explosive debut by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and heralds an exciting new literary voice… Delicious.”

–Nylon

“You can’t help flying through the pages..”

–Buzzfeed

“Lethally elegant”

–Luke Jennings, author of Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle

“Strange, funny and oddly touching…Pretty much perfect…It wears its weirdness excellently.”

–LitHub

“Who is more dangerous? A femme fatale murderess or the quiet, plain woman who cleans up her messes? I never knew what was going to happen, but found myself pulling for both sisters, as I relished the creepiness and humor of this modern noir.”

–Helen Ellis, New York Times bestselling author of American Housewife

“Disturbing, sly and delicious, Braithwaite’s novel compels us to consider the limits of loyalty and the insidious weight of silence.”

–Ayobami Adebayo, author of Stay With Me

“Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as a knife…bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.”

–Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“A gem, in the most accurate sense: small, hard, sharp, and polished to perfection. Every pill-sized chapter is exemplary. Where others waste ink and trees, Braithwaite can conjure fully-detailed settings and characters with a finger snap. Of these, all shine. One dazzles. Tell Shirley Jackson that the Merricat Blackwood of the 21st century lives in Lagos, her name is Ayoola, and she is so obliviously/adorably/hilariously/heartbreakingly wicked, she’ll make you cry tears of all flavors.”

–Edgar Cantero, New York Times bestselling author of Meddling Kids

“Sly, risky, and filled with surprises, Oyinkan Braithwaite holds nothing back in this wry and refreshingly inventive novel about violence, sister rivalries and simply staying alive.”

–Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew and Ways to Disappear

Author Oyinkan Braithwaite
Author Oyinkan Braithwaite

About the author:

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work.

In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam.

In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Atlantic Books (Doubleday) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The title of this book hooked me. The fact that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria, made it more attractive. I could not resist the cover. And then I started reading and got hit by this first paragraph:

“Ayoola summons me with these words —Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

Told in the first person by Korede, the book narrates her story and that of her “complex” relationship with her younger sister, Ayoola, beautiful, graceful, a successful designer, beloved of social media, irresistible to men, the favourite of everybody… She’s almost perfect. But, there is a big but, which you will have guessed from the title. She is a serial killer.

This is a short and very funny book, although it requires a certain kind of sense of humour on the part of the reader. You need to be able to appreciate sarcasm and dark humour (very dark) to find it funny, but if you do, this is a fresh voice and a different take on what has become an extremely popular genre recently, domestic noir. I kept thinking about the many novels I had read where I had commented on the setting of the book and how well the author had captured it. There are no lengthy descriptions in this novel, but it manages to capture the beat and the rhythm of Lagos (a place where I’ve never been, I must admit) and makes us appreciate what life must be like for the protagonists. Because, although Ayoola is a murderer, life goes on, and Korede has to keep working as a nurse, she is still in love (or so she thinks) with one of the doctors at the hospital, their mother still suffers from her headaches, Ayoola wants to carry on posting on Snapchat, the patient in coma Korede confides in needs to be looked after, the police need to be seen to be doing something, and there are more men keen on spending time with beautiful Ayoola…

I found Korede understandable, although I doubt that we are meant to empathise with her full-heartedly. At some points, she seems to be a victim, trapped in a situation she has no control over. At others, we realise that we only have her own opinion of her sister’s behaviour, and she has enabled the murderous activities of her sibling, in a strange symbiotic relationship where neither one of them can imagine life without the other. We learn of their traumatic past, and we can’t help but wonder what would we do faced with such a situation? If your sister was a psychopath (not a real psychiatric diagnosis, but I’m sure she’d score quite high in the psychopathy scale if her sister’s description is accurate) who kept getting into trouble, always blaming it on others, would you believe her and support her? Would you help her hide her crimes? Is blood stronger than everything else?

I loved the setting, the wonderful little scenes (like when Tade, the attractive doctor, sings and the whole city stops to listen, or when the police take away Korede’s car to submit it to forensic testing and then make her pay to return it to her, all dirty and in disarray), the voice of the narrator and her approach to things (very matter-of-fact, fully acknowledging her weaknesses, her less-than-endearing personality, sometimes lacking in insight  but also caring and reflective at times), and the ending as well. I also enjoyed the writing style. Short chapters, peppered with Yoruba terms, vivid and engaging, it flows well and it makes it feel even briefer than it is.

If you enjoy books with a strong sense of morality and providing deep lessons, this novel is not for you. Good and bad are not black and white in this novel, and there is an undercurrent of flippancy about the subject that might appeal to fans of Dexter more than to those who love conventional thrillers or mysteries. But if you want to discover a fresh new voice, love black humour, and are looking for an unusual setting, give it a go. I challenge you to check a sample and see… By the way, the date of publication varies according to format and location, so it might not be available yet depending on where you live…

Thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and to the author for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading , and remember to like, share, comment. click, review and keep smiling! 

 

 

 

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