The novelist Aminatta Forna, praising Gappah for her Guardian First Book
Award winning short stories, noted: "Through humour and compassion, she
depicts that most quintessential of African characteristics: the ability to
laugh at life, for fear of crying."
Gappah's first novel, The Book of Memory, shows the same perfect balancing
act between sharp wit and blinding pain. Memory is a young albino
woman, on Death Row in Harare's maximum security jail,
for the supposed murder of her adoptive father. A journalist has persuaded
her to write an account of what happened, to help with the appeal process.
Her subsequent tale is what she thinks and what she
remembers - but is it the truth? Moving from early
childhood in a township, to wealthy white suburbs, away to study at
Cambridge, and eventual return to a turbulent country,
Memory's life is slowly unwrapped, although what is fact
and what is constructed becomes increasingly unclear. Gappah's rich
language is brimming with vivid detail, pop references and blending of
dialects. The cruelty and corruption of Zimbabwe's legal system are never
far away, nor are the hidden layers of unspoken shame and prejudice, yet
there is joy simply in the way Gappah writes. Evocative and compelling,
this is a wonderfully satisfying debut novel.
About the author:
Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz
University and the University of Zimbabwe. Her debut short story
collection, An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Prize in
2009. She lives in Geneva with her son.
What the critics said:
"Startlingly vivid - Gappah grapples
with the grand themes of fate and free will, love and loss, the collision
of tradition and modernity, the impact of politics on the personal. A
moving novel about memory that unfolds into one about forgiveness, and a
passionate paean to the powers of language." - Observer
"For a novel saturated with death, The Book of Memory is most emphatically
alive; her language dazzles as it balances the wittily
combative and the frankly voluptuous. That she manages to combine grim
reality with an appealing likeability is what makes her a writer to take to
the heart as well as the head." - Financial Times
When we asked Petina if she'd be happy to come and talk to you about her book she replied, "Do please say a HUGE THANK YOU from me! How exciting! I am a huge fan of Mumsnet, and know the lingo in and out, from cutted up pears to cocklodgers, from LTB to 'naice ham'. I am very honoured!"
so we're absolutely thrilled that Petina will be joining us to answer your
questions about The Book of Memory and her writing career on Tuesday 28
June, 9-10pm. Please feel free to discuss the book on the discussion thread
throughout the month and then come and meet Petina on the night, and ask
her a question or simply tell her what you think of her books.