Review: Homegoing

Posted January 9, 2017

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Homegoing Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published by Viking on 5th January 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Yaa Gyasi takes us on a journey spanning seven generations and thousands of miles in Homegoing. We begin our journey in the Gold Coast of Africa, in the time of British occupation, tribal wars and slavery. It’s from this point that we follow the descendants of two women across history and the globe.

Gyasi’s writing is captivating. She creates the most incredibly vivid characters, shares a snapshot of their story with us and moves on to the next generation. Now, when I realised this was the case I wasn’t too sure how I’d like it; journeying with one character/set of characters for such a short period of time before moving on. I needn’t have worried though; each and every one of Gyasi’s characters had me engrossed. I’m no writer, but I can only imagine the immense skill required to write such a huge cast of perfectly formed characters and to tell their stories in a continuing timeline.

I must confess that my knowledge of black history has been poor. I’ve read about slavery, its abolition, I’ve watched documentaries, but truly I’ve never managed to fit it all together in my mind. This book takes us chronologically through hundreds of years of history. While, I assume, the characters themselves are fictional, their situations and experiences are definitely not.

I hold my hands up and admit my shocking ignorance on the subject. I learned a great deal from this book – facts, yes, but also, importantly, seeing life through our characters.

Gyasi packs so much into this relatively short novel. We follow a family whose history is steeped in slavery, and another family whose societal position keeps them free. We pass from generation to generation, exploring and meeting the challenges of the day.

This book gives a real insight into some of the treatment of black people through the years: challenges faced, prejudices against them, ‘ownership’, segregation, police brutality.

I found myself so saddened while reading this to realise how far we have yet to go: that despite the passing of all this time, so much of this still rings true. Since I read this book, we’ve seen global events that have only increased racism, with society feeling that it’s actually moving backwards rather than forwards towards equality.

I could write about this book all day, but it’s a book you need to experience for yourself. Nothing I can write here can do justice to what is contained within the pages of Homegoing.

It’s a very readable, beautifully written, intimate and honest novel. Personally, I found it educational too. It’s a book I will be urging everyone to read. It’s a 300-something page journey through time and place that simply MUST be embarked upon.

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