It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts about this book coherently enough to write a review. There are some books I find myself desperate to review the moment I’ve finished them – but with this masterful debut novel I wanted some time to reflect on what I’d just read.
Homegoing tells the stories of Effia and Esi – half-sisters born in the country we now know as Ghana. The sisters are destined never to meet: one marries a British slave trader and remains in Africa, whilst the other is captured and sent to America to be sold as a slave.
Each chapter alternates between Effia and Esi’s families – and what makes this novel so unique is that with each new chapter, we move one generation further down each family tree. The chapters can almost be thought of as short stories, each covering the life of a different member of the family – but the overarching storyline is present throughout, bringing the novel to a beautiful, satisfying conclusion.
At 300 pages, this novel is relatively short – especially when considering the fact that it covers over 200 years of history. I was worried this might make the story feel rushed, but I needn’t have feared – the story was conveyed at a pace that neither felt too fast nor too slow, allowing the reader to savour each stunning page.
That being said, Homegoing is not the sort of novel which is packed full of exciting plot twists. I went into it expecting to find it very educational and eye-opening, which it definitely was – but for me, it was also so much more. Despite each character only getting a chapter’s worth of development, every single narrator felt fully fleshed-out, with hopes and dreams and despairs that made me feel so much for them.
Another aspect which endeared the characters to me was the often harsh reality of what Gyasi wrote. She certainly didn’t hold back from describing the atrocities of slavery and the fight for racial equality, painting a haunting picture of the world’s recent history for the lives of African people. The story she tells – the impact of slavery both on the formation of America as a country, and for the world as a whole – is an incredibly important one which I think everyone needs to hear.
This novel both educated and moved me, and I will be recommending it to everyone I know. It is an absolutely stunning debut, and I’ll be waiting with eager anticipation for whatever Gyasi chooses to write next.