Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

homegoingWhat I thought:

Firstly, that cover! They say never judge a book by its cover but in this case – do! It’s vibrant and gorgeous. I was drawn to this book by the cover and the rave reviews I was starting to see: an author to watch, stunning debut, ambitious etc. They’re not wrong.

I’m actually finding it quite difficult to gather my thoughts over this book. Spanning 300 years, it tracks the families of 2 sisters, Effia and Esi, born in Ghana in the 1700’s and the book begins in Cape Coast Castle, a castle that was used to house captives before they were shipped to the Americas as slaves. Effia is forced to marry an Englishman, one of the slave traders, and lives in comfort in the upper floors of the castle. Meanwhile, her sister, Esi, is captured and thrown in the dungeon below before being shipped to America to be a slave. From there we follow the stories of one of the descendants of each sister over the next 300 years in both Ghana and America. The book follows each descendant in turn so it’s essentially 12 short stories but they are all linked and there are enough references to people and places already featured that it feels like a complete book.

I imagined this book to be a sort of love letter to the authors’ ancestors and homeland. It is brutal (but never gratuitous), it is shocking (but never sensational), it is moving (but never sentimental). I liked the style of the book; Gyasi managed to create characters that I could totally believe belonged to the time and place they were featured in.

Verdict:

I felt Homegoing was an important book. I enjoyed parts of it enormously and others I found more difficult (but that might have been the point). Despite knowing, and have read books about, slaves and the slaveships before (read my review of The Book of Negroes here), it never gets any easier to read. I find it difficult to say I enjoyed this book as much of it was about enduring horrific hardship, but also it was about finding love and relationships.

I didn’t necessarily find any weak links in any of the 12 stories but some I did enjoy more than others. I particularly liked the ones set in Africa. The history, the legends; it felt more vibrant.

Have you read this? What did you think?

NB/ I was kindly provided a copy of this book for my honest review from Netgalley and Penguin Books.

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