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20 Paperback – December 18, 2016
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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This novel is like a confessional/stream of consciousness diary of a young woman, a fashion model who lives alone and who records her thoughts, feelings and impressions over time. The book is divided into chapters and follow the seasons, but as we spend most of the time inside the head of the protagonist (although the story is written in the third person) sometimes, as we all do in our own minds, she might go back and forth in time, and other times, due to illness, substances and her state of mind, we don’t know if something she’s experiencing is happening at all in the real world. There are also fragments of the book told from the point of view of a young man she meets, whom she falls in love with, but these are not many.
Despite the beauty of the language, I found it a bit difficult to engage with the story (that is not really a story). Perhaps it is, as some reviewers have commented, partly the fact of not knowing the name of the main protagonist or her beloved. We get to know the name of Natasha, a friend who invites her to live with her, but we don’t know much about her. We don’t know where she is, know little about who she is, and her circumstances. I imagine it might be an attempt at universalizing the story, but most readers enjoy living other lives, even if completely different to theirs, rather than a very subjective but somewhat blank one.
What I thought at times while I read the book was that I remembered having similar thoughts and feelings when I was an adolescent, at a time when everything feels new, unique, and we believe nobody has ever gone through similar experiences or knows what we’re going through. Everything is measured by how it affects us and we live inside a bubble of our own making that few things can pierce. In the case of the protagonist she suffers a very traumatic event that depresses her (although it seems to be more a matter of degree rather than the nature of the emotions she experiences, as some of her thoughts were very similar before the said event) but in a way it seems to help shake her up and realise what life is really about.
To give you a taster of the language, here I share a couple of sentences I highlighted:
A few miles above them, a plane took off, breaking the sky that had begun falling to night once again, like love inside youth.
Her eyelids closed, and behind them, her eyes shone like stars.
In summary, a book that requires a very special type of reader, and that I suspect will connect better with younger readers (YA, NA). Not a book recommended for those interested in a good story and engaging plot, but for those who enjoy descriptive, subjective and sensuous writing.
Vatsal’s prose remains poetic in this novel – “Sometimes I was so filled with loneliness,” she told him, lowering her eyes as if to think. “You were with me and then you disappeared. And all this time I thought: if that’s what love is, I hope I never experience it again. I try to please everyone, and then I distance myself. I always wonder where I am. Nothing seems real sometimes. The world doesn’t make any sense. My teenage years were so difficult. I search for meaning in mundane events to discover something real. I seek identity in empty relationships. All my life I tried to find a place in this world...”
Vatsal invites us to soar with this brief novel. He offers a synopsis to allow entry into his space – ‘A troubled young model, an introspective writer, 20 is about loneliness, love, hopes and dreams. One night as she is driving back home from a show, she almost runs over someone. She holds her breath, and through the fog they see each other for the first time. Love begins to form in the space between them, in precognitions and thoughts, lights and intimacies. Seasons change. They come to know more things about themselves and each other. Life wraps them in its embrace like a haze, in a vacant space bigger than their eyes can see.’
A love story, yes, but it is more than a romance: this is a palpable experience that enters our psyches for a while and leaves marks of beauty and memory. Vatsal Surti is a remarkably talented young writer, on who bears observing and following. Grady Harp, December 16
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.
Most recent customer reviews
Surti blends the life and love of humans with the mysteries of nature and shows it all as interconnecting in a lovely way.Read more
“20” is a story about a young model and an introspective writer.Read more