Monday, 5 August 2013

Book Review: Black Bread White Beer

Black Bread White Beer
By Niven Govinden
Published by The Friday Project
Available as paperback and ebook

Even though Black Bread White Bread is a compact novel and covers a short time span it still packs the punches.

This book, short enough to be gobbled up in one reading session,  looks at the immediate fallout after a miscarriage and digs into the inner lives of a modern marriage, peeling away the veneer, watching the wobbles of marriage still in its early stages.

Amal and Claud have spent months preparing themselves for the pregnancy - going on diets, having a strict fitness and eating regime. They have even bought the family home. Their wish for a baby finally comes too but is shattered soon after their announcement. Through the eyes of Amal, the reader watches as their grief isolates the couple from each other and brings their marriage to the brink.

The reader follows them over 24 hours, as they head straight from the hospital, still numb with the news, to her parents house. On the way Claud decides that they will pretend that they are still having a baby. Govinden successfully captures the numbness, resentment and the slow realization of reality between the couple. At times the novel is raw. Amal is confused and hurt by his wife's coldness and distance. In a world where communication is everywhere this couple are unable to connect with each other. At the start this is physical isolation - Claud is in hospital and Amal has been sent home by the doctors but as the novel progresses the isolation becomes emotional and self inflicted.

The importance of family expectations and its guilt plays a big part in Black Bread White Beer as well as culture clashes. Amal comes from an Indian family who live in the North of England while Claud's family live in a chocolate-box type of village. All the villagers know Claud's and Amal's news. There is no escape. Her parents have even splashed out on expensive invites for a baby shower. Using humour to break up the tension and the reader's fear of an ugly ending for our couple, Govinden explores the conflict of generations between Amal and Claud against her parents with their out dated mannerisms and ideas.

There are not many characters in this novel - which is a good thing as the novel is short - I think this would make it a good candidate for transforming into a play.

Black Bread White Beer is an engaging read. Don't be fooled by its shortness - there is lots packed into those pages! I shall definitely be on the look out for Govinden's other books.

You can buy Black Bread White Beer from your favourite online or offline book retailer. 

The Friday Project kindly sent me a copy. 


chillcat said...

Sensitive review of what sounds like a tricky and rewarding book! Great stuff. thanks, cat

Jessica said...

Thank you - I will reply to your email this weekend :)