Monday, 26 December 2016

Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Title: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Pages: 320 pages

Publication: 5th January 2017 by Penguin Books (UK)

Reason for reading: I got the eARC for this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads Synopsis: Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Review

Homegoing is one of the best debut novels I have ever read. In just over 300 pages, Gyasi gives us a story spanning 7 generations that looks at a horrific history, resulting in a novel that is epic in every sense of the word.

This story first gained points in my book for writing that was so wonderfully concise. I could tell that every single word had been painstakingly pored over to make sure it deserved to be there, resulting in a narrative that was clear and brutally honest. I instantly fell in love, and ended up highlighting many passages whilst reading, something that rarely happens.

“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves”

Secondly, the characters were incredibly vivid and rich, each with their own individual personality and interests. Although I did draw out the family tree to make it easier, I still felt like it was easy enough to differentiate between the characters. Every character is in some way affected by their ancestor’s destinies, and their stories are dealt with beautifully and intelligently by Gyasi.

My one very small criticism would be that the ending felt too convenient and wrapped up just a bit too nicely for me. However, I can see why this was done and in all other respects was a very good way to end.

This is a book that has changed how I see the world, and has helped me understand. Slavery, colonialism, and are dealt with in such an exceptionally competent way that is impossible to walk away from this book unaffected. For all these reasons I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars; it is an astonishing debut novel and I implore everyone to pick it up when it is published in the UK on 5th January 2017. I cannot wait to see what else Yaa Gyasi brings out.