Thursday 4 February 2021

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson | Book Review

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Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson - 5/5
"Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years."

This book is a work of art.

Caleb Azumah Nelson writes an achingly beautiful tale about falling in love against the backdrop of trauma, and harsh reality of living life as a Black man in London where racial profiling is a regular occurrence.

Written in second person narrative, it puts us, the reader, in the position of the unnamed main male character and we learn a lot of his inner psyche this way. We never find out the female characters name either. He is a photographer, she is a dancer.

We discover that both characters are young, Black and have both gotten scholarships to private schools. They developed their own things to keep sane in schools that were predominantly White; hers dancing, his basketball. It tenderly and poeticly shows the two of them slowly falling in love but his inner traumas threaten to tear them apart.

"Which came first, the violence or the pain?" His sadness is heart wrenching and having it written in second person narrative makes it all the more emotional.

I don't think I have ever read anything as beautiful.

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