When We Speak of Nothing

We rated this book:


The title of this beautiful, emotionally haunting novel is appropriate: many of the important aspects of the book live in the empty space of what isn’t said. The narrative style, however, is unexpectedly breathless. It’s told through the perspective of Karl, a teenager living in South London whose narrative voice reflects the distinct characteristics of that time and place. The dense, unbroken flow of the narrative emulates what it might sound like to listen in on the thoughts of a teenage boy. And, just as with a teenage boy, it’s in the silences that the important nuance of the story lies.

But here, laid over top of those silences, you have Karl and his friend Abu trying to survive school and bullies when Karl leaves suddenly for Nigeria, hoping to meet a father he’s never known. There, he finds himself in the midst of a difficult political as well as personal situation that he’s ill-prepared to handle alone. Meanwhile, Abu tries to navigate new challenges without the help of his best friend and finds himself stumbling into the midst of growing social unrest in London.

In all, this is a powerfully affecting novel, beautifully executed, and told through an unforgettable voice. The way Popoola structures the narrative around its silences is brilliantly done, and it means that the important realizations, when they hit you, hit you with the same impact as the characters themselves feel. It’s powerful, subtle, and beautiful. Enthusiastically recommended.

Reviewed By:

Author Olumide Popoola
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher Cassava Republic Press
Publish Date 2018-Apr-03
ISBN 9781911115458
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue August 2018
Category Modern Literature


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