Thursday 26 November 2020

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

"I don't just want to be having any kind voice . . .
I want a louding voice.

At fourteen, Adunni dreams of getting an education and giving her family a more comfortable home in her small Nigerian village. Instead, Adunni's father sells her off to become the third wife of an old man. When tragedy strikes in her new home, Adunni flees to the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, where she becomes a house-girl to the cruel Big Madam, and prey to Big Madam's husband. But despite her situation continuously going from bad to worse, Adunni refuses to let herself be silenced. And one day, someone hears her."


The Girl With The Louding Voice is a coming of age story set in Nigeria; the story of fifteen year old Adunni, told in her own words, moving from the poverty of a rural village to a different sort of poverty among the affluent classes of the city, where workers are treated almost as slaves.

In many ways it's a disturbing tale, spotlighting the treatment of girls and women as commodities to be traded, in a society where men are of primary importance, and which is drastically divided between rich and poor. First Adunni is effectively sold to a much older man, already married with two wives, when her father can't pay his debts, then she goes to work for a woman in the city but all her wages go to the 'agent', the man who placed Adunni in her job, and her employer's husband feels any of the female servants should be amenable to his sexual advances. 

On the other hand, it's a story of hope, and it's hope that stays with the reader as the overall feel of the book. Whatever her situation, Adunni's resilience and determination shine through. She's adamant that somehow she'll find a way to finish her education, and be able to speak out, in her louding voice, on behalf of girls and women trapped as she is.

It's an amazing debut, told in an original, captivating voice, with Adunni finding humour and compassion in life despite her predicaments. I found myself rather regretting that her attempts to improve her English, seen as the key to bettering her prospects, would result in a watering down of Adunni's lively manners of speech.

Friday 20 November 2020

Map's Edge by David Hair

 Dash Cowley is a man in disguise. For the past few months he's been passing himself off as a healer, and living as invisibly as possible in Thesveld, a village at the end of the world, but in a previous time he was Raythe Vyre, a nobleman, soldier and sorcerer. Following a failed rebellion against the Bolgravian Empire, he was forced to flee, moving from village to village with his daughter, Zar, until they've ended up by the sea with nowhere further left to run. Till, that is, he hears by chance of a source of riches; istariol, a rare mineral used in sorcery, has been found in the frozen north. There's enough to make the fortunes of all Thesveld's villagers, so they band together and head off on an adventure beyond the limit of the known world.

It's a good mix of adventure, magic, and inventive world-building, as the villagers pack up their lives and travel north, heading for the iceheart where nothing grows and no one lives, or so they believe. Behind them come the Empire's men - soldiers, spies and sorcerers - determined to track down the defiant rebel Vyre and find out what has persuaded a whole village to up and take to the road. Even without these pursuers, the journey isn't easy. There are the expected physical setbacks to overcome, encounters with the remains and the magic of a previous civilization, plus rivalry and treachery amongst the villagers' own numbers. 

Although at the back of your mind you know all will come well in the end - that Vyre will find the source of istariol, that the majority of the villagers will complete the journey unscathed, and the bad guys will eventually be beaten - the story is a compelling, engrossing read you can disappear into for hours at a time. 

The only downside is that Map's Edge is book one of a series, and there'll be a wait before the next installment of the story. 

Wednesday 18 November 2020

The 2084 Report by James Lawrence Powell

This novel takes the form of a series of interviews with various people from scientists and politicians, to ordinary people, living all over the world, with one thing in common - despair at what went wrong in dealing with climate change.

I was hoping for something a little more inspiring  - something that would encourage me to do more, make changes to my lifestyle which could really help combat climate change. But no. Instead, I found it all quite dull. When covering up to the present day, most of the interviewees were regurgitating facts I was already aware of. Then, as they moved onto what happened post-2020,  I found myself arguing with them, querying why options that everyone has surely heard of, such as solar or wind power, weren't utilised to their fullest.

The answer comes at the end of the book - the author basically wants to champion nuclear power; in fact it's seen as the answer to all our problems. There's no way I'm a fan of that, I think it's just shelving the issue for a while and a price will have to be paid somewhere down the line.

Would I recommend this title? Only to an absolute climate change denier. It might stop them in their tracks and make them think. Anyone who is already concerned about the way things are going will probably, like me, just be irritated. 

Thursday 12 November 2020

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

The world renowned Montverre academy has for centuries been a place where promising youngsters are trained in the discipline known simply as the 'grand jeu', a mix of music and mystical moves, but behind its prestige and fame lie secrets and tragedies. Léo Martin was once a student there, a winner of awards, but he gave it up and turned to politics. Now, after a rash comment in the wrong place, he's back at Montverre, in exile, with his promising career in tatters. His old college has changed though; one of their highest teaching posts is held by a woman, Claire Dryden, towards whom Léo is drawn, despite her seeming disdain for him.

As with Collins' previous novel The Binding, this is a multi-layered, multi-faceted story, of love, deception, and betrayals of several kinds, set against a backdrop of a world that isn't quite ours. Montverre in its mountainous setting sounds French but feels like it belongs further east. The government that Léo offends has many of the hallmarks of the early stages of the Nazis rise to power - a leader demanding absolute loyalty, persecution of a religious minority, the shutting down of educational and artistic academies who aren't prepared to support the Party fully. Against this menacing backdrop, the stories of Léo, Claire and others within Montverre play out, moving between 'present day' and Léo's student days which ended in tragedy.

It's captivating and escapist, while at the same time warning of the dangers of allowing arts and education to become twisted for political ends. Since reading The Betrayals, I've watched The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, and I think if you've been gripped by that then this is a book for you.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Harper Collins (The Borough Press)
Genre - Adult fiction