Shortlisted for The Saltire Society First Book of the Year 2012
Mission-raised Ellie Amadi expects to live a dream life when she and her son Nat leave home in West Africa to join her white, estate factor, husband James in the Fife mining village of Hollyburn. In 1966 Fife, mixed marriages are unusual, never mind interracial ones, and Ellie soon witnesses the villagers’ ignorance of outsiders.
Ellie struggles to adapt to her new life and rebels against her husband’s pressure on her to conform. When she is accused of neglecting her baby, and subjected to an allegation of witchcraft, Ellie questions her ability to go on living among white faces.
The story draws on deep parallels between the cultures of West Africa and Scotland. Each chapter ends with a vernacular ‘party line’ telephone conversation between two village women, tracking the initial animosity towards Ellie and gradually, a grudging acceptance of her. When Nat is abducted by the school bully and nearly drowns, Ellie is stunned by the hostility she receives from an African male doctor. It is only then she realises that prejudice of incomers exists everywhere, and acceptance grows if nurtured by familiarity.
This novel cleverly explores historical racial prejudice in Scotland and may raise some difficult cultural issues, perhaps still applicable 45 years later.
Customer Reviews on Amazon
Loved this in awe of the authors ability to understand and express how people from different backgrounds cultures and experiences may think and feel. I suppose that is what good writing is about! Wish I had the same insight and perception
This is a clever and innovative book dealing with a time and a location which are unexpected but vividly portrayed. It brought me back very clearly to scenes and attitudes of my childhood as it explores the tensions between the obvious incomer as well as the other tensions in the community. A good read which makes me think about how much things have changed - or not - and which stays with me, fluttering about inside my head.
I really enjoyed this book, it was an unusual setting in that it depicted an immigrant to Scotland from Africa. Having visited Nigeria some years ago, I was sympathetic to her situation (there were no white people in the area I visited). It was so easy to be misunderstood even though we all spoke the same language. The cross cultural issues are huge - still room for another story from the author I think!