Saturday, 20 October 2018

Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson


Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Published by Warner/Aspect in January 1998.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones (unavailable)
Amazon US / Amazon UK

The rich and have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways--farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.

I had thought that Red Birds would easily be my Book of the Month until, just a couple of days later, I started reading Brown Girl In The Ring. Now I will be absolutely amazed if anything else I read during October will manage to top Nalo Hopkinson's writing! I picked this one on a whim because I needed a fifth Jamaican author for that country's WorldReads post (coming on the 5th November) and was attracted to Brown Girl In The Ring by its seriously bizarre cover art. Essentially a dystopian novel set in a ghettoised Toronto, Hopkinson draws in elements of West Indian mythology, Caribbean magical realism and glimpses of oh-did-I-really-just-read-that gruesomeness to create an astoundingly breathtaking tale. This book was actually published twenty years ago, but it feels new and vibrant and very relevant to today. How had I never heard of Nalo Hopkinson before?!

At the heart of Brown Girl In The Ring is a young woman, Ti-Jeanne, who, when her baby was born, felt compelled to return to her grandmother's home leaving the child's drug-dealer father behind. Gros-Jeanne, the grandmother, is a wise woman and healer. She prepares natural remedies from what can be grown or bartered in desolate Toronto, putting her knowledge of traditional Jamaican medicine to good use while also striving to learn about the new (to her) northern plants. The Jeannes are strong Black women although the younger Jeanne does not always believe sufficiently in herself. Learning oneself is a recurrent theme as is choosing between the life we would like as opposed to the life we feel we have been dealt.

Hopkinson builds her Toronto setting in a completely believable way. I could vividly imagine this once-prosperous city abandoned to gangsters and poverty. The people left behind are in desperate straits, alleviating their suffering with drug addiction and violence, but with pocket communities attempting to make a life worth the living. However true power is wielded by one man, ganglord Rudy, who maintains his grip through dark obeah magic. I loved that the magical scenes are every bit as believable as the dystopian city. I never felt myself thinking that something 'couldn't really happen' such is the intense atmosphere and authenticity of this novel. The magical horror aspects make Brown Girl In The Ring a perfect October read and I highly recommend it!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Nalo Hopkinson / Fantasy fiction / Books from Jamaica

20 comments:

  1. It sounds interesting. And I do want some horror in October. I better hurry!

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    1. Brown Girl In The Ring is perfect for October reading!

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  2. The world sounds bleak but the story sounds good.

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  3. Sounds interesting. Great review!

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  4. I'm glad you found this to be such a compelling read. I can't say I've ever been astounded by an author's writing as of late, but keeping my fingers crossed as always. Lol.

    And hey, this is set in my side of the world! Coolness.

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    1. Maybe give Nalo Hopkinson a try. I absolutely loved this novel, as you can probably tell from my review!

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  5. Fun! I love the idea of this one. Adding it to the wish list.

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    1. Brilliant! I want everyone to read this book!

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  6. wow this sounds indeed so unique and SO MOI! :) of course you had me at Caribbean magical realism! Thanks so much for the rec Stephanie! xoxo

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    1. I thought of you several times while reading this!

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  7. This one is completely new to me. I love the sound of the characters and the bit of magic. Great find!

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  8. Nalo Hopkinson is an author everyone raves about -- and I can see why -- this sounds A-MA-ZING!

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    1. I'd never heard of her before, but am delighted to have discovered such brilliant writing!

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  9. This has such a cool premise! And it sounds like it has a really interesting mashup of genres and themes and setting and everything. I'm glad to hear it was so great and that you loved it!

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    1. I was completely blown away by this one. Great writing and a fab story :-)

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  10. I only heard of Nalo Hopkinson when I started book-blogging (I totally need to get round to reading some of her books,) - I think she's not as well-known outside the Americas.

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    1. I feel so lucky to have discovered Hopkinson's novels, especially as I might never have done so had I not searched out Jamaican authors

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