My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


Blood might be thicker than water, but it’s also a lot more difficult to scrub out of carpets. Just ask Korede, a hardworking Nigerian nurse. By day, she is a well-respected, dedicated carer. At night she is on standby as an enabler for her wrecking ball of a little sister, Ayoola, who has a habit of killing her boyfriends.

Ayoola stabs them and Korede bags them, and though Ayoola pleads self-defense, Korede realizes that she has become a serial killer’s one woman cleanup crew. Until Ayoola sets her sight on Korede’s dream man, Tade.

The conflict is at one point explicitly focused on Korede’s Choice between her murderous sister and the object of her unrequited affection. The premise works as long as you don’t overthink it. Nigeria has the death penalty, but at no point is Korede seriously worried that her sister might hang. Instead, she frets about the prospect of losing hunky Doctor Tade to her sister’s sharp knife blade. Leaving aside considerations of logistics and logic, since we are reading a satirical(ish) tale, not a full fledged psychological thriller, the flimsy characterization of both Ayoola and Tade put the story under strain.

To her credit, Braithwaite does solve the Tade side of the equation by stripping him of his Mr. Perfect aura by the time Korede takes a side. This is more than many authors manage once they’ve set their hearts on convincing us that the boring, self-involved, hunky Doc types of this world are irresistible. Unfortunately, Ayoola doesn’t come across as any more well-rounded of a character. This is a far bigger issue given that her relationship with Korede is what anchors the book.

For all the attention she gets for her overwhelming physical beauty, Ayoola has a serious charisma deficit. She is simply put too dull of a psychopath and, as we rush through the plot without getting any insight into when exactly she started killing and what triggers it, she remains a beautiful blank slate throughout. The fact that she is often infantilized does not help. It is a missed opportunity to explore in more depth the themes of female agency, rage and violence the story only touches on very lightly.

Where Braithwaite does show more ambition is the flashbacks to the girls’ family life. There is a marked improvement as we get to see how Korede began her lifelong role as her sister’s keeper and how the two girls support each other to survive their father’s violence. You get the feeling this is the book that could emerge from a couple of rewrites. The good news is My Sister, the Serial Killer has been optioned for screen, a medium that has a lot of potential to bring out the story’s strengths. In the hands of a charismatic actress, Ayoola’s blankness might yet become chilling and cool. This might not be a whodunnit, but it is a very brisk, often fun read. I support publishing novellas under the radar with the help of generous formatting. I am even happier to have easy access to books set in a global metropolis outside of Europe or the US, so fingers crossed for the cinematic version and the advent of a Lagos noir trend. If the cover of this book is any indication, it’s going to be a stunner.

What’s interesting to note among the hype for this novella is that the audiobook version is getting great reviews, even from readers who had issues with the choppy plot and did not quite buy into the story on the written page. Perhaps My Sister, the Serial Killer was destined to be seen or heard rather

Sofia Fara is a book blogger and member of The Books Without Borders Bookclub

240 pages and published by Double Day

Back to globooks,net

Advertisements
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Sunita Crowley Reviews Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

sayakaWhat is it to be normal? What are the rules of life that we need to learn and abide by in order to live a life in which both our own needs and the expectations of society are satisfied?

Continue reading “Sunita Crowley Reviews Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata”
Sunita Crowley Reviews Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Brothers in Blood: Sunita Crowley Reviews

In his interview at the 2018 Asian Writers festival, the author Amer Anwar discussed how he devoured crime fiction but had yet to read one set within the Asian community.

Thus started his writing journey. Brothers in Blood his debut novel went on to receive the prestigious Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award under the title ‘Western Fringes,’ and recently featured on Radio 4’s Open Book as well as numerous Best Books lists for 2018 including The Guardian and The Times.


Set in contemporary Southall, we enter the world of Zaq recently released from prison and working in a dead end job in a builders yard. The quest that our protagonist is tasked with is to find Rita, the daughter of his employer Mr Brar who has run away. As the story unfolds Zaq learns that she’s being forced into an arranged marriage but the facts turn out to be more complicated than we or Zaq imagine. Accompanying him on his journey into the Asian criminal underworld is his childhood friend Jags.
Tension builds throughout the book as Zaq treads the line between the competing expectations laid upon him by Mr Brar, Rita’s thuggish brothers and his own desire for self-preservation and to protect those who he perceives as vulnerable. The threats of imprisonment through false accusations, fear for his own life, along with what is yet to be revealed about the characters keep us gripped right to the end. ‘Who can you trust?’ and ‘Who or what is around the corner?’ is the staple of any crime fiction and Brothers in Blood doesn’t disappoint.
Aside from the violence of the underworld that we’re drawn into, the relationship between Zaq and his friends, in particular Jags, is well observed portraying the unquestioning support between friends as if they were brothers. Cultural divides and the concept of honour are explored in the book in various forms. Rita who is Sikh is purported to have run away with a Muslim, a situation that has to be resolved with added urgency for fear of bringing shame to her family ‘of all the guys she could’ve picked to go out with, a Muslim would’ve been the very worst choice as far as her family were concerned. The reasons were historical…’ Zaq who is of Muslim heritage is of a sensibility for whom religion or politics is irrelevant. Jags his closest friend is Sikh. As with any book which portrays a specific culture in a particular light, there is the danger of stereotyping. Forced marriages in a patriarchal society is a trope that can be misused in storytelling, but Amer Anwar has shifted this narrative adding a nuance that reflects the complexity of individuals. Violent Asian gangs prowling the streets of London may also be a pleasing narrative for some but let’s remember, this is crime fiction and inevitably there has to be devious devilish criminal characters of Asian heritage for the story to proceed.

If anything Amer Anwar portrays Asian culture as complex as any other. There are those who break the rules and justify their dubious actions with equally dubious moral codes. There are those who are tender, kind and know when they see injustice and seek to do their utmost to defend what’s right. Of course there are individual characters with many if not all these traits reflecting that we’re all a bunch of contradictions.
Publishers in the past have been hesitant to embrace a book peppered with non-English phrases. I can understand that this may be a barrier to engaging with the book. However since the start of my school days in an East End Comprehensive we were encouraged to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words from context before rushing to a dictionary. Shakespeare for many of us felt like a different language. When Zaq is told by his yard manager that he’s been summoned to see the boss and Zaq asks why, we can surmise that the reply by the yard manager ‘Mehnu Kee putha?’ as he waves him away in a disinterested manner means ‘how do I know?’ But as is always the case, that view is coloured by the sensibilities of the reader. I as a British born Hindu-Punjabi who was never taught either Hindi or Punjabi but can understand the odd phrase, see it as a window into the world of a culture that is comfortable inhabiting two spheres, that of their own cultural heritage and the host country. As readers we don’t need to understand each and every word spoken by the characters. In fact books, just like films, can be written with different readers in mind. Children’s films invariably insert extras for accompanying adults to identify with. It’s not essential to the story but a nod to those with an added depth of knowledge.
Amer Anwar has set his novel in a place that he clearly knows well describing the streets of Southall and its surrounding areas with such detail that at times I wanted to reach for google maps and follow the characters on their journeys
Has this book changed my life? No. Do I identify with the misfortunes and violence that befalls the characters? No. I live a largely uneventful life free of crime. Do I understand the complexities of growing up in an Asian community in Britain? Yes. Does this book along with others such as ‘Sophia Khan is not Obliged’ signal a change in publishing and popular culture that acknowledges that there are universal stories that transcend culture? Yes. Just as the TV series ‘This Life’ in the 1990’s portrayed an Asian female who I could identify with, the current wave of British Asian fiction is set to do the same. Fiction in which Asian characters are portrayed in a non-stereotypical manner, in which being Asian isn’t the dominant theme and the plight of the immigrant isn’t the central theme but rather being a human with a life filled with everyday angst, grief, love and humour is ever more important. In an apparently increasingly polarised world, we need to focus on what we share. What better way to demonstrate our common humanity than through nuanced fiction.

Brothers in Blood maybe set to draw in a new readership that otherwise would bypass this genre. I for one am looking forward to the sequel.

Amer Anwar.
Could this be the beginning of a whole new genre of SouthAsian Crime fiction?

Published by Dialogue Books. 448 pages.

Gallery

When I Hit You – Meena Kandasamy – Tasha Mathur Reviews

Meena Kandasamy boldly addresses marital violence against women in her latest novel.meena

SINCE publishing just a year ago, Meena Kandasamy’s latest novel was quickly shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2018, Women’s Prize 2018 and longlisted for the Dylan Prize 2018. Set in southern India, When I Hit You has gained global attention as an honest account of domestic abuse in a country which unfortunately still shies away from addressing the problem.

Due to the taboo surrounding domestic abuse, statistics rarely offer an accurate picture of how widespread the issue is. However, according to a recent survey, 31% of married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses in India.

While many women quietly endure this abuse, Kandasamy bravely spoke about her former abusive husband in an article for Outlook Magazine five years before publishing When I Hit You. And although the novel is considered a fictional piece, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between the female protagonist and Kandasamy – making the story a harrowing and realistic read.

The story follows an unnamed female writer who finds herself abused by her husband shortly after getting married. As a university professor, he twists ideologies to his advantage as he tells her,

“The problem is your feminism…that refuses to recognize that we are a couple…you cannot see me as anything other than a man and men as anything other than selfish scoundrels.”

Using intellectual arguments to manipulate her, the verbal abuse builds to actions such as deleting her Facebook and all of her emails. As he begins to wear her down, the physical violence increases as he starts to rape her when she attempts to defy him.

The full title of the novel is When I Hit You Or The Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife as Kandasamy emphasises the fact that this story is through the eyes of a writer. And it is writing that becomes this young wife’s biggest weapon.

Finding herself helplessly trapped in a tortuous situation she uses the power of words by writing letters to former lovers – even if it means deleting them before her husband comes home.

However, these small acts of defiance are rare as we see a strong, young feminist writer, slowly broken apart by her forceful husband. While most of the violence is alluded to and not explicitly described, Kandasamy writes of the emotional consequences of rape as the wife wonders, ‘How do I let another person know how it feels to be raped within marriage? Death is all I can think about when I lie there….A rape is a fight you did not win. You could not win.”

As if that wasn’t enough, she finds herself fighting alone as her parents encourage her to suffer through it rather than face the humiliation (perhaps more for her family than her) of divorce. Unfortunately, a response that is still far too common in India.

On the surface, this novel is a matter-of-fact story of a young wife beaten and raped by her husband. However, Kandasamy cleverly reflects on how that affects the woman’s reputation and the fact that even the strongest of women have endured the worst of their husband’s physical violence.

While this story is a difficult read it certainly carries a lot of hope. Essentially the book itself is the ultimate act of defiance as Kandasamy fearlessly uses her own writing to call out male abusers, the families who tell women to stay, the policeman who won’t do anything to help and many others. When I Hit You shows us that this story can happen to anyone but that there are ways of making it out the other side. And with the amount of attention it’s received, let’s hope this book is the start of open discussions around physical violence against women in India and encourages others to share their stories.

TASHA MATHUR

When I Hit You. Published by Atlantic Books – 256 pages.

Back to www.globooks.net Main Page

When I Hit You – Meena Kandasamy – Tasha Mathur Reviews

Dance of The Jakaranda: Peter Kimani GloBooks Reviews

A Kenyan writer  known as a poet, novelist, journalist & teacher, awarded the prestigious Jomo Kenyatta Prize for literature in 2011, Peter Kimani now brings out his latest novel, The Dance of the Jakaranda. Globooks journalist Tasha Mathur read the novel and was lucky enough to swap marginalia notes with the author 

Kimani explores Kenya’s colonial legacy within a love story, which brings the past back to life, in more ways than one Ia rich, multi-layered piece of work, not only are the characters and their stories captivating but the context of the colonial setting offers a window into a dark part of Africa’s history.

The Dance of The Jakaranda
Peter Kimani`s novel explores Kenyan`s colonial history

The  Dance of the Jakaranda surrounds the construction of the railroad from the inner Kenyan countryside to the trade port of Mombasa – a project that was started by the British in 1896. Enlisting the help of thousands of Indians from the former British Raj, the venture was eventually dubbed the ‘Lunatic Express’ due to the danger and large expense. Not only did many of the workers lose their lives during construction, an unspoken hierarchy formed amongst all involved with the British at the top, Indians in the middle and Africans considered at the bottom. Kimani cleverly illustrates this through a literal separation of Black and Asian workers within the carriages of a train, which ironically rides the rails that they have essentially built together.

The novel follows the lives of four main characters – the British colonialist in charge of the railroad construction Ian McDonald, the Christian preacher Reverend Turnbull, the unintentional Indian hero Babu and his musician grandson, Rajan. Each character’s story branches off from the winding train track, transforming into their own complex narratives yet each interweaving with each other. In an exclusive interview with Peter Kimani, he explained to GloBooks, his intentions behind the novel,

The basic premise is a love story, and a search for belonging. All the characters, without exception, are invested in one pursuit of happiness or other.”

It’s certainly true that all of the characters in The Dance of The Jakaranda have extremely rich backgrounds, which makes it easy to relate and sympathise with them all at some point in the novel. Despite the British oppressor Ian McDonald`s warring with the Indian worker Babu throughout the novel, it’s not so easy to pick sides as you would think, as Kimani develops each back story to such great detail that you can’t help but consider all perspectives.

PeterKimani
Author Peter Kimani

However, while there are many strong male characters in the novel, the female voices seem to be slightly lost. Although we hear of Sally, McDonald’s estranged wife and Fatimah, Babu’s industrious wife, it would have been interesting to hear more about these women – especially as much of the novel is driven through their love stories.

While many may know of the colonial history of Kenya, Kimani is able to offer us a very personal and human element of the struggles that were involved. And as he tells us, one of these was very much an aspect of belonging, particularly with Rajan, a brown man in a black world which had been had placed under white rule all his life.’ This is complicated even further, when the police can’t decide where to deport him, as his ancestral home of Punjab had been divided into two – India and Pakistan – yet another direct result of British colonial rule.

The Empire Windrush
The so called”Windrush Generation” were in fact migrants travelling from Jamaica to London in 1948 on the Empire Windrush ship.

The idea of deportation echoes the current state of the so called Windrush generation of Caribbeans , who arrived in Great Britain on the Empire Windrush ship in  1948 – enticed to work in Britain with the promise of a great quality of life, similar to the Indians who had been enticed to work in Kenya. In the novel, the new Kenyan government enforces a rule for each person to register themselves as citizens of the country, similar to those from the Windrush generation needing to prove their right to remain in a country that they’ve lived in most of their lives.

Once again, it questions the idea of identity and where does one truly belong. Kimani shares another reason for writing The Dance of The Jakaranda,

the novel is interested in re-telling the story of Kenya’s colonisation. In fact, I think mine is an act recovery; restoring the agency of Kenyans, and Africans at large, in telling their story, after centuries of subjugation.”

And the way Kimani tells this story is unique as the form of the novel jumps between two time frames throughout, both during and post colonial rule – showing the parallels between the subjugated and freed citizen. Kimani celebrates the oral tradition of African story telling, which often involved stories being passed from one to other until it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. While some may find it difficult to follow, it adds an atmosphere of buzzing activity to the story as we become privy to what smaller characters gossip about – with the narrator eventually confirming the truth of what actually happens.

Kimani ambitiously attempts to tackle many themes within the novel – colonialism, postcolonialism, racism, social hierarchy, love, lust, belonging, deception and many more. While some have worked more successfully than others, Kimani does illustrate each scene through his beautiful use of language from the snake like movements of the train chugging through the countryside (a motif that’s wonderfully illustrated on the front cover) to his descriptions of the flamingos coming to their new home in Lake Nakuru – a staple tourist site to this day. His poetic descriptions truly bring the African landscape to life, making it easy to imagine the settings of this exotic continent.  According to Kimani, not only can it entertain purely as a piece of engaging fiction but hopefully educate those on the facts of Kenya’s colonial legacy.

My novel questions the idea of European colonisation of Africa as shining ‘light’ on the continent…”

However, in the Dance of the Jakaranda, Kimani successfully redirects the light to shine on the story of European colonisation in an engaging manner, which will keep you reading from start to finish. 

The Dance of The Jakaranda by Peter Kimani. Published by Saqi Books

Tasha Mathur is a blogger and member of The Books Without Borders Bookclub part of http://www.globooks.net

BACK  TO  WWW.GLOBOOKS.NET  MAIN PAGE

 

 

 

Dance of The Jakaranda: Peter Kimani GloBooks Reviews

The White Book – Author Han Kang

Pioneering  Korean  Author Receives  her  Second ManBooker  Prize nomination with her latest book, The White Book.

 

Many will know of author Han Kang as the first South Korean writer to win the Man Booker Prize in 2016, for her novel, The Vegetarian. And now she continues to break down barriers, with her latest book, The White Book, also being longlisted for this year’s £50,000 Man Booker Prize. While the world of Korean fiction may be relatively small on the global scale, The Vegetarian certainly put Han Kang on the map. Published in 2007, it was her first novel to be translated and into 13 different languages; a testament to the popularity of Kang’s writing. Translated by the talented Deborah Smith (who also translated The Vegetarian), the autobiographical, The White Book, gives us a unique insight into Kang’s life, which she has successfully kept quite private in the past. And with the Man Booker Prize winner prize being announced in May, all eyes are on former winner, Han Kang, once again. white

On first glance, the most noticeable aspect of The White Book is the form in which it’s written. As Kang reflects on all things white, she dedicates a new page to a certain white object or concept explained in small paragraphs. Interspersed with black and white photos of Han Kang’s performance of the book, the contrast of the images as well as the black text makes the white spaces even more prominent. Kang alludes to this as she titles one section, ‘Black writing through white paper.’

 

While some may find this form difficult to follow compared to the usual prose of most books, it’s a refreshing change of pace, which gives you room to stop, ponder and muse on each white object she talks about – from the ‘white, pondering face’ of the moon to the ‘billowing whiteness’ of a flowing lace curtain.

In some ways, Kang uses the book as a form of therapy to reconcile with past trauma – in this case, the death of her older sister, who passed away just two hours after birth. The short musings almost read as extracts of a diary, commonly used to help people navigate their inner psyche and reveal repressed thoughts. And the death of her sister certainly seems to have been buried deep inside her as Kang explains the story of her deceased dog, rather than her sister in a recording studio the year before.
She describes the process of writing the book as something that ‘would itself transform, into something like white ointment applied to a swelling, like gauze laid over a wound’, suggesting that writing The White Book is a form of healing. This transformative element also implies Kang may not have known which direction the book would take her but allowed us to be a part of this journey; creating an intimate relationship between reader and writer. Despite The White Book surrounding the death of a sibling, it is  surprisingly life affirming. She explains to her sister,

‘I wanted to show you clean things. Before brutality, sadness, despair…clean things that were only for you…’ By addressing her sister directly, Kang almost brings her to life – sealing her existence amongst the permanency of the printed pages.

Kang uses the event as a way of describing various forms of life to her sister such as the white wings of a translucent butterfly. It’s by pausing to appreciate the small things in life that can keep us going. And in a world that’s becoming increasingly fast paced, it’s refreshing to be able to focus on things as miniscule as one white snowflake. We almost see the objects through the innocent, newborn eyes of Kang’s sister – reminding us of the beauty and purity of all things white.

Han-Kang-The-White-Book-web
Author: Han Kang has won critical praise.

The White Book is a deeply meditative text, which allows us to reflect on our own day-to-day lives and all the small things in it. While reading, I found myself paying greater attention to the little details around me, particularly those that bring life. Even though the death of Kang’s sister may be personal to her, the universal themes of life and death are relatable to many. Kang must be commended for her bravery in laying her thoughts and emotions bare for all to engage with. We can certainly sense Kang receives some closure as she vows to continue focusing on the pure white things, yet to be sullied by life and ‘breathe in the final breath you released.’ The book leaves us with the same life affirming message that Kang’s mother repeated to her sister on that fateful night, ‘Please don’t Die’. Live.

THE WHITE BOOK Published by Portobello Books

Tasha Marthur is a freelance journalist and member of Books Without Borders Bookclub

If you would like to get your free monthly enewsletter  giving you latest international fiction news and events just add details below and click ! or email us marketing@globooks.net listing your favourite international fiction (s) and name ! Thankyou 

 

PROFILEPHOTO.jpg
The Books Without Borders Bookclub

 

 

 

 

The White Book – Author Han Kang

Women Who Blow On Knots: Ece Temelkuran

After being criticised for her writings, journalist and author, Ece Temelkuran hits back with her latest feminist novel, The Women Who Blow On Knots.

ece

Outspoken Turkish reporter, Ece Temelkuran is known for her controversial opinions, which have often threatened her safety and ultimately culminated in losing her job from The Haberturk Daily in 2012 after openly criticising the Turkish government However, this didn’t deter Temelkuran and out of adversity, has come her latest novel, The Women Who Blow On Knots – which follows four strong, independent women travelling from Tunisia to Lebanon during the Arab Spring.

The narrative begins as three Muslim women meet in Tunisia – Egyptian Maryam, Tunisian Amira and a Turkish journalist (similar to Temelkuran herself)– who, although they meet by chance, seem almost drawn to each other and form a fast friendship. Before they know it, they find themselves on an unexplained journey across the Middle East led by septuagenarian, Madam Lilla – a mysterious yet compelling woman who takes an unusual interest in the three women. Each one of them is running from a secret pasts, which slowly unravel throughout their journey.

As they travel from Tunisia to Lebanon, Temelkuran successfully humanises the politics of the Arab Spring when many had become desensitised to the daily media coverage of the various protests. Along their journey, the women are met with a number of people who have close connections to the Arab Spring or the effects of it, bringing it to a more personalised level and allowing the reader to reflect on the individual people who were affected.

The novel, which has now been translated worldwide, is another piece of Temelkuran’s writing, which some have considered controversial. Speaking in an interview at a recent Books Without Borders Bookclub event on the novel, Temelkuran explained, “When I named this book, everybody was so furious, especially my publisher in Turkey. Everybody pushed me to change the title to something like ‘The Journey of Witches’ or something that would be a more sexy title in term of sales.”

However, an undeterred Temelkuran insisted on the title, derived from the Quran (which she studied for a year) and explained to us why and where it came from:

TEMEL

There’s an expression in one of the verses which says ‘Beware of those women who blow on knots.’ – those women who do witchcraft by praying and tying knots then would blow on these knots to seal the prayer. So I thought if the holy book of Islam believes in the strength of breath of women there must be something magical in it. And this was a very hard year for me, I was in Tunis, I was alone and meanwhile I was fired from my job. So the only thing I could believe in was the strength of my own breath.”

Madam Lilla is a true delight in representing this strength in women as Temelkuran tells us about the inspiration behind her character,

She’s a combination of many women I met through my years of journalism because I met some amazing women – extremely strong and resilient women. She’s a mother that I constructed for myself and even now, when I have hard times I go back to Madam Lilla in my head and speak to her. Thank God I created this character so there’s someone in my head to talk to – someone who properly answers my questions!”

The story consists of a multitude of layers, which cover a range of themes and crosses both literal and metaphorical borders that can be interpreted in many different ways. But is there an overall message that Temelkuran aimed to communicate through the novel? “I wanted to create a message about motherhood and how we adopt new mothers during our lives,” Temelkuran explains,

 

“At the end of the book, there’s a sentence where it says something like ‘we don’t even need a God to love us if we had a courageous mother.’ The ultimate message is that.”

Temelkuran’s brave decision to fuse politics with the power of women, despite her reputation being at great risk, is one to be admired and this defiance can be felt throughout the novel. Describing the struggle she often faces, Temelkuran tells us, “Trying to protect yourself as a writing woman, feels like you’re having a sword fight with the ghosts when it comes to such attacks. It’s not easy but I think we’re going to find a way through solidarity and creating awareness about the situation.”

And The Women Who Blow On Knots embodies such solidarity with a powerful message of not only the strength of women but how to use this strength. It’s a novel that can inspire people from across the world to defiantly challenge injustices and unequal societies just as Maryam, Amira, the Turkish journalist & Madam Lilla did.

Women Who Blow On Knots – Published by Parthian Books

Blogger Tasha Mathur is also a member of Books Without Borders Bookclub.

Women Who Blow On Knots: Ece Temelkuran