black british

Black British is the story of Lucy, the youngest of three daughters who reminisces with a stranger about her childhood growing up in an affluent family in Kanpor, post Independence. Her life of luxury and privilege dwindles as Lucy and her family are left ostracised by their village and community; They are no longer Indian, but British they are not. They are in no mans land.

We were painfully full of ourselves weren’t we!

I have to admit, along with a couple of other reviews I’ve seen I nearly gave up on this book. The first two thirds I just could not get to grips with, but I stuck with it and the last third had me roped in to the last page. Strangely, I felt I knew more about some of Lucy’s extended family than I did about her own, and a couple of scenes were quite touching and emotional to read.  It really felt like Hebe hit her stride in the second half of the book.

Hebe De Souza writes very beautifully, in an almost sing-song way, and the whole book is extraordinarily detailed and descriptive. However, I think at times overly so and sentences like ‘she smiled with her mouth’ just didn’t work for me. I wonder if the heavy detail and time taken to explain the general feelings and political situation at the time were at the cost of well developed main characters.

It sounds like I’m a little down on Black British, but I really did enjoy the last third and I came away understanding more about what happened in post-Independence India and the fall of the British Empire. Looking at the many other book reviewers who have rated this one very highly. I guess that I’m one of those readers that just didn’t quite get attached to this book, I need a character to take the journey with and for me, they just weren’t strong enough to carry me through.

A proficient first novel and I do look forward to reading Hebe De Souza’s future books and seeing how her writing develops.

2.5 out of 5 from me

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The Book Jacket

In the turbulent years that follow the British Empire’s collapse in India, rebellious and inquisitive Lucy de Souza is born into an affluent Indian family that once prospered under the Raj. Known as Black British because of their English language and customs, when the British deserted India Lucy’s family was left behind, strangers in their own land.

A richly visceral and stunning debut, based on the author’s own childhood, Black British is an unflinching and beautiful narrative about feminism, family and the search for identity.

black british