The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka Review

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When creating such an enticing novel that focuses on multiple timelines a lot of historical facts have to be checked thoroughly, and author Rosanna Amaka has done this well. The Book of Echoes was twenty years in the making, Amaka is unquestionably dedicated to sharing the voice of those who have experienced some of the events within the story. The story is set within the district of Brixton, South London during the 1980’s where Amaka herself grew up. The book helps provide a first-hand look at the African-Caribbean community within the areas and how they are treated. Amaka also makes comment on how there is a similarity between both the UK and the US in regard to sharing a voice of experience.  

Amaka’s personal knowledge of the area helped provide an insight that cannot be doubted. Within the story we not only see issues of discrimination but also references the property crisis that was going on in the area at the time and also alludes to the upcoming gentrification that would be occurring. The location of the novel helps provide a view of what many inhabitants of Brixton thought at the time; it was a welcoming and caring community. In each of the individual characters chapters there was a continuing theme of a ‘rich and poor’ divide and therefore our characters witness and are subjected to lots of ‘othering’ within their own communities as well as scrutiny from outsiders. Readers would notice the divide instantly when reading, however Amaka wrote it as if common place and many people will notice how by doing so Amaka pulls attention to how the division is systemic. However, by narrating the story from a third-person point of view using the character of the Spirit, Amaka provides a comforting narrator whose comments help alleviate the pain we see the main characters Michael and Ngozi go through. 

The majority of the story is focused on the two individuals whose paths do eventually cross. When reading their meeting feels rushed and though carefully planned out, the characters deep resonation with each other is not questioned. This could be due to the reader, knowing their linked history to each other and their “invisible threads” from their past which pull them together. Nonetheless the characters profound love for each other is not questioned and once again Amaka’s character of the ‘Spirit’ aids in their quick assembly more believable. This is because of the Spirit constantly looking over them both noting that they are experiencing events that are their own ‘fate’. 

The creation of the Spirit narrator is especially comforting when talking about events that occurred due to discrimination. By using the Spirit to narrate both her own story of slavery and the characters of Michael and Ngozi, Amaka shows the parallels and how hardly anything has changed when it comes to discrimination. This is further shown through Michael’s question, more aimed at himself rather than others, “Do you think black people are cursed?”. When reading you feel bad for Michael questioning his ability to do something despite his capability. Likewise, the Spirit talks about how she was “frightened of our tomorrows” in her own time and now watched over Michael questioning his capability and Ngozi wondering if she is too dark skinned to be able to be successful (referencing to her friends use of “lightening creams”). When watching both Michael and Ngozi face these challenges the Spirit speaks of how what she is watching is “such a familiar tale” referencing to how history heavily impacts Michael and Ngozi’s decisions and life events. 
Amaka focuses on the humanity of all the characters and their connections to one another. Within the book Amaka enwraps the reader into two different timelines with three different stories, each with their own triumphs and downfalls but all full of caring and passion. Through the story Amaka also notes how sometimes ignorance doesn’t have a special look as Ngozi and a man “walked away [both] ignorant of their own history”. Overall, I will be reading The Book of Echoes again to watch Michael and Ngozi meet each other and to see how their fate was written in the stars by Spirit. 

1 thought on “The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka Review

  1. This review is very well-written and makes me intrigued to read the book because it highlights so many of the thought provoking elements in it.

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