Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson - A stunning debut!
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
What an amazing book this is, and to think it's his debut. At just 26, it's amazing the wisdom and painful poetry that pours from his pen already. And it all flows so well without ever falling to cliche or the perils of oversentimentality. I think in part this is because of the depth of emotion on display and the mastery with which he uses his language. For me, the second-person narrative worked really well too and suited Nelson's storytelling style. It also afforded some distance from the main protagonist so as not to appear overly indulgent in its revelation of some pretty raw emotions. A perfect balance if you like. I also liked the way Caleb portrayed the dealings with police and living as a black man in London. This felt personal rather than political and is all the more powerful and effective for it.
This is a tender, dark and enlightened tale about love, not unrequited love, but true to life, something much deeper and much more complicated than that. What can I say, probably my favourite book of the year so far and I can't wait to read more from him in the future. A writing star is born!