REVIEW: We Need New Names

NoViolet Bulawayo's world is vibrant, brutal and told bluntly through the innocent eyes of a 10-year-old girl; it is raw, pulsing with energy and unflinching in its courage; it is animated, full of pain and wit: it is "Paradise", a shanty in Zimbabwe, home of some extraordinary children. It is a book I adored.

Author: NoViolet Bulawayo | Publisher: Chatto & Windus | Pages: 290 | Source: For reviewSent to me by Man Booker
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A remarkable literary debut -- shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl's journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.

Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn't all bad, though. There's mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices.

They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges - for her and also for those she's left behind.

MY THOUGHTS: Say what you want about We Need New Names – criticise the pacing, the plot, the purposely-disjointed writing style – but please, please do not criticise the cast. Why? Because NoViolet Bulawayo has breathed life into an exuberant gang of kids that won't leave my mind; I simply fell in love with each and every one of them... Darling and her friends are simply incredible and, the second half aside, I can't bear to hear anything bad spoken about them. And that's just how emotive the author's writing is. By giving words and a voice to the inhabitants of a place I am foreign to, she has slowly build a reader and character relationship which many other authors would kill for. Seriously, her character-building cannot be faulted.

Admittedly, the pacing was a bit off at times, and some passages came across as more rushed than need be – although this could be down to the style of writing. However the main reason I'm knocking off a star is because of the rather – I can't really think of the correct word for this – odd split between the first and second half. The beginning, set in "Paradise", is where the children begin to flourish with the sweet and sharp dynamics between them entertaining the read… yet, during the second half, set in America, I feel as if the narrative lost a bit of pizazz.

But overall, with the vivid blend of beauty and brutality, NoViolet Bulawayo has made a fan out of me; We Need New Names is a bold novel that comes alive with each turn of the page: I highly, highly recommend. 

I don't want to say too much more about We Were Liars because the best thing to do when reading this book is to leave the path open and to wander along it with no knowledge of where you'll arrive.

Favourite Quotations:
'To play the country-game, we have to choose a country. Everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and them. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti and not even this one we live in - who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart?'

In One Word?
Why? 
The vividness and exuberance of the novel are what make it stand out. Like I said at the beginning of this review: NoViolet Bulawayo's world is vibrant, brutal and told bluntly through the innocent eyes of a 10-year-old girl.


14 comments:

  1. I was in a bookshop today and considered buying We Need New Names when I saw it, but ended up getting something else instead. I kind of wish I'd bought this now! Lovely review, Ruby, and I'll definitely try to get hold of a copy soon ;)

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    1. Thank you Maya! I think you'd enjoy this one... out of interest though, which book did you buy?

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    2. Shine by Candy Gourlay. I've been hearing a bit about it recently and really like the sound of it, plus I'd just got her debut Tall Story out the library. ;)

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    3. Tall Story rings a bell actually, I think it was a book that they had at my old primary school... it sounds awfully familiar to me! And as for Shine, I've never heard of it, but I hope you enjoy it nevertheless. :)

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  2. Excellent review Ruby. I'm certainly going to look into getting this :)

    Holly x

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    1. Aw thanks Holly, glad you like the review!

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  3. I'm not as excited to read this one compared to the other Man Booker novels, but it does sound good. I still need to start The Luminaries, and I'm also looking forward to Harvest, but hopefully I'll be able to read this one soon. The writing sounds interesting, and the voice sounds incredible. Really great review! :)

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    1. I think you'll enjoy this one actually! The Luminaries is really fab, but a lot of effort due to its length! Harvest was not my cuppa tea… but you might like it! ;D

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  4. This books seems very surreal...almost like a dream...:-)

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    1. I guess, in the sense the kids dream of America, it is. :)

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  5. The characterization in this sounds like a winner! Which is great to hear because I absolutely love great character reader relationships. This sounds like a really interesting read and it's a shame you weren't benefited by the split parts. Great Review Ruby :)

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  6. I always love reading your reviews - they are beautifully written! This book sounds amazing and completely different! I always enjoy reading about characters I have a connection too - may just pick this one up!
    Sophie:)

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