I picked this book up from the library both for #DiverseAThon and because it seemed like a perfect choice for task number 2 of the Read Harder Challenge – “Read a debut novel”. I didn’t know much about it before I started, but the cover really appealed to me and the blurb sounded interesting.
The book focuses mainly on two characters. Joy is a young woman in modern day London, coping with the death of her mother and has received a strange inheritance of a brass head and the diary of her grandfather. Adesua is a young woman from a village in the Benin Empire (now Nigeria) and has just been chosen as the latest wife of the King. She is given a gift of a brass head by him and has to deal with the jealousy of the other wives. The book alternates between the two of them, along with a couple of chapters focusing on Queenie, Joy’s mother, and then also starts sharing entries from the diary. The book is a journey, focusing on Joy discovering more about the history of her family and all the characters are linked together by the brass head.
The writing in this book is an absolute delight to read, the descriptions and choice of language is wonderful and made you want to read slowly and savour it. My favourite character was Adesua and I would keep reading to get back to her chapters. I found it quite slow to start as at the beginning, I was not the biggest fan of Joy but I grew to like her more as the book went on and by the end I was hooked. All the characters are really well developed, including all the side characters like the wonderful Mrs Harris, Joy’s neighbour, and the various settings were fantastic. I really enjoyed reading about Benin and plan to read some non-fiction to learn more about the empire.
This is a book I would definitely recommend, particularly to those readers who enjoy magical realism.