Little, Brown. Sept. 2021. 112p. ISBN 9780316268264. $23. F
DEBUT Brown’s first novel is essentially an interior monologue delivered by a woman preparing to attend a sumptuous event at the estate of her boyfriend’s patrician parents in the English countryside. The narrator is a Black British woman of Jamaican descent and, like her parents, born in the UK. Her career in finance is a mark of achievement she thinks might also be a sign of complicity with the status quo, as represented by the white family she is visiting and their friends, rooted beneficiaries of imperialism she comments on bitterly, for whom she must role play politesse as they look expectantly for the hidden rage and envy that will affirm them, just as she must role play with the white colleagues who think she got her promotion because she’s Black, conservatives who smugly say she’s what the country is all about, and liberals who complain that she’s selling out her community. All this and a boyfriend who thinks they talk honestly and a serious medical issue to wrestle with, too—all issues she ponders here.
VERDICT As much portraiture and piercing social commentary as it is narrative, this affecting work is like no novel you have ever read. For all readers wanting to deepen their understanding of identity issues and/or the formal possibilities of fiction.
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