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By Dakota.Me.UK, Sep 10 2014 08:14PM

We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulowayo, Chatto & Windus 2013

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013, the main character Darling and her friends play the Country Game, where everyone wants to be the USA, Britain, or Canada. They live in a shanty called Paradise in Zimbabwe, but it is far from idyllic to Western eyes.

Their lives are simple, but they make the most of what they have, stealing guavas and dreaming of places like America and Europe, and people like David Beckham and Lady Gaga.

Amazingly, Darling soon finds she is moving to America, the Promised Land, but things are not quite that simple. The book highlights various issues such as hunger and poverty, lack of medical facilities, and rape. It is not light reading, but if you want realistic depictions of life in other countries, it is very effective.

But life in America is not as easy as Darling expected, some of her class mates cannot understand her accent, and the abundance of gadgets in her Aunt’s house does not necessarily make her happy. To make things worse, when she speaks to her friends back in Paradise on the phone, she finds their old ways childish and embarrassing. She is becoming a young woman and faces the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood faced by girls everywhere.

Although NoViolet’s novel focuses on the contrasting countries of Zimbabwe and America, the themes running through are those of where you call home, remembering your roots, and whether material things can really make you happy.

I loved this novel and can’t wait to read more of NoViolet Bulowayo’s books. A well-deserved place on the Man Booker shortlist 2013.

Purple Poetess

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