Book Reviews

A Change Is Gonna Come

A Change Is Gonna ComeA Change Is Gonna Come

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Change Is Gonna Come is a compilation of short stories and poems from 12 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers, ranging freely over a series of topics and themes, and pretty much all of them are rather wonderful, powerful contributions. What really struck me about this collection is the care that’s been taken over every element in it; from the striking and wonderful cover design (for more on that, have a look at this, to the note in the introduction from the editorial mentee (a good thing, publishing world), and the inclusion of debut writers, A Change Is Gonna Come feels like it’s been loved. And that sensation of love is powerful when it slides into the hand of the reader, so very powerful.

A frank highlight for me was Tanya Byrne’s lyrical and incandescent love story ‘Hackney Moon’. Byrne is a writer whose debut Heart-Shaped Bruise was something I called kind of spectacular, and Hackney Moon is right up there. An aching, tender, and fiercely told love story, it’s honestly, one of the best things I’ve read for a long time. I finished reading it and did one of those little ‘oh that was good’ pauses. (Don’t you love them?)

Another highlight for me was Aisha Bushby’s ‘Marionette Girl’, a distinctive, eccentric and powerful story of growth. Bushby’s writing is sympathetic and kind, but also full of a very subtle sense of drive. The sense of a character pushing up against barriers all around her mixed with the knowledge that she’s going to break through. Does that make sense? I hope it does. This is a story full of drive and determination and power, and it’s kind of heartbreaking and beautiful, all at once.

What a way to start the year this is!

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The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo : Catherine Johnson

The Curious Tale of the Lady CarabooThe Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rich, vivid storytelling; The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo is written with such power and verve that it made me greedy. I wanted more. Much more. Johnson’s novel is based on a real tale of a girl who was not herself. She adopted personas and identities and stories, really, in order to be somebody different and to make her life a little easier. This time, the girl chooses her new life after a dark and sharply horrific event makes her want to leave the last one behind. The blink of an eye, and the girl is the Lady Caraboo, a mysterious figure from a far away land. And with this new identity comes problems of its very own….

I’ve a lot of love for Johnson’s work, though I’ve not read nearly enough. (sidebar: Brave New Girl is a gorgeously rooted story of Hackney and the Olympics and one I do recommend most heartily). The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo has been on my to read list for a while, and it doesn’t disappoint. It opens with a twisty, fragmentary, glass-sharp sequence of scenes (persevere with this opening because it pays off) before the story settles into something quite remarkable.

It’s an intensely filmic story. If ever a story begged for visual adaptation, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo does. Some of the sequences are wonderful and awful, and much of their impact comes from Johnson’s clean, genuine prose. She’s not afraid of giving the raw edge of life here, the shadow beneath the pretense, and some of the scenes are much better for it. Do note though, that there’s a scene at the start which might prove problematic for the younger scale of young adult; yet do equally note that this scene is intensely relevant for the narrative as it stands. As ever, read, and then make your call. This book is powerful and it tells a story that needs to be told.

I loved this. Johnson has this great gift of story and to be frank, one of the reasons that this is not a full five star rave is that I wanted more. Books like this make me so greedy.

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