ARC Review: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Hi All,

Finally the weekend has arrived! I feel like I’ve waited a month for this weekend. I’m not quite sure what it is I’m excited for as I don’t actually have anything planned, I guess it’s just waking up to no alarm and spending the whole day as I wish. Hope you all have a great weekend filled with whatever makes you happy.

Book πŸ“–

The synopsis of this book drew me in and I thought it sounded like an interesting read. Thank you to @PenguinUKBooks and @CalebANelson for this advanced audio copy of Open Water in return for an honest review. Open Water is due to be published on 4th February 2021 and you can get a copy here.

Description πŸ”–

Two Black British people meet in South East London and find they have a lot in common. Both attended private school on scholarships, both are artists and both are trying to make it in their worlds. The two slowly fall in love and try to feel their way through their lives together. Except not every couple can make it and as they struggle through working out what it means to be themselves in a world that sees them as something else, they are ultimately torn apart.

General Thoughts πŸ€”

I have to admit that I did not find this an easy book to read. The subject matter is real, beautiful and ugly all at the same time, but I just couldn’t seem to connect with it. I have some thoughts on why that may be (and I think a lot of it is to do with me, not the book) but I’ll discuss that later on in this review.

Characters πŸ‘«πŸ‘¬πŸ‘­

There were two main characters in the book; both of which remain nameless. The way that their relationship started, grew and developed was really quite beautiful and felt very tender. What started as a friendship turned into something precious.

The main character in the book was like many people I know in life and it was a tug on my heart to have that played back to me. He started off as open and vulnerable with his girlfriend but as he started to struggle with living as a black man in a society that saw him as only that, his walls went up.

Writing Style ✍️

Ok, so this is where I think I struggled, for two different reasons. The first being the writing in second person. I found it really difficult to follow and often had to pause for a few seconds to reset and remember what was going on in the story at that time. I know a lot of people enjoy this kind of writing but unfortunately for me it felt impersonal.

Secondly, the narration. Now this is a funny one. The writing is very lyrical and reads like poetry. I think that if I was to watch this as physical performance I’d have connected with it a lot more but listening to the audio, I couldn’t keep my concentration in the right place. I think that this can be personal preference and therefore would probably place the disconnection on me rather than on the book or the narration.

Conclusion & Scoring πŸ…

Although this audio book and I did not get along like a house on fire, there is a lot I appreciate about this book. The prose is stunning and appropriate for the story and subject. I’d like to try reading this book (as in with my eyes not my ears) and I would love to see this performed. Caleb Azumah Nelson is obviously a very talented writer and I hope that his work gets the recognition that it deserves. Maybe Open Water and I can try again in a different format.


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