We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida
Soon after, her former best friend goes missing in mysterious circumstances. When Eulabee doubts she’s been kidnapped, she’s once again out on a limb. So she has no-one her own age to advise on the complicated matter of boys.
The early teenage voice of this novel is perfect: I loved Eulabee from the start. However, I had a couple of quibbles in relation to plot and structure. At one point, I thought the author sacrificed character for tension: I couldn’t quite believe a securely-attached child such as Eulabee would knowingly alarm her parents, although I felt the story recovered well from this possible misstep. Also, I felt the epilogue during the characters in middle age detracted from the finely-tuned focus on adolescence without much resolution.
Overall, I found this a lovely coming-of-age story about girls discovering their place in the world. Thanks to publishers Atlantic books for my review copy. For another novel from this author, see my review of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty.
The Son of the House by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia
When the women are kidnapped and held together in a grimy cell, they’re forced into a greater intimacy than they ever would have expected. As they swap life histories, a deeper connection develops, which surprises them both.
Through these two characters, Nigerian novelist Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia provides an insight into her country’s recent history and the impact of poverty and patriarchy on women’s lives. It’s an absorbing and entertaining read although, with potentially a lot of material to cover, some aspects, such as Nwabulu’s early adulthood, are glossed over.
As a Westerner, one can’t help feeling outraged at the treatment of girls like Nwabulu. It reminded me of the awkwardness I’ve felt in the past when staying with middle-class families in poor countries and discovering they employ a couple of girls from the countryside as maids. But how can you judge? Until she has an ill-advised relationship with the wealthy neighbour, Nwabulu is treated better by her employer than by her extended family back in the village.
Thanks to publishers Europa editions for my advance proof copy.
I’m not sure if kidnap equates with hostage-taking, but it’s a fine excuse to share a related YouTube reading: here’s the opening of my short story “Habeas Corpus”.
When they dragged him from the boot of the car, he swayed, staggered, crash-landed on the dirt track. But the shock of pain receded when they ripped off his gag and blindfold, and vroomed away. For some moments his mind remained shackled, fearing the freedom, the vast purple sky.
In the distance, streetlights beckoned. His hunger and thirst responded but his beard and sweaty shit stench held him back. After being caged like an animal, how could he join humankind?
Limping, stumbling, Jack hit the road. By dawn, he’d reach the village. How many moons till he recovered himself?