But I didn’t. I just decided I was finished after page 15. Chris Cleave is an award winning British author–a good writer whose work mostly borders poetry with effortless rhythm and word chess that the rest of us dream of one day mastering. Still…well…
Here’s the photo on the inside of the book jacket cover:
Stare at it for at least five seconds.
Now here is the first sentence of the book:
“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.”
I pursued it still. After all, I never want to be limited as a writer and told that the only characters I can write in first person are characters who look like me. But after 15 beautifully written pages, I realized I did not believe the narrator. Race shifting with first person narrative voice is surely possible; Gertrude Stein aced it with Melanctha, so I do not believe my opinion of the work would be different if I had no previous knowledge of the source. But who knows?
“This was always my trouble when I was learning to speak your language,” the narrator says. “Every word can defend itself. Just when you go to grab it, it can split into two separate meanings so the understanding closes on empty air. I admire you people. You are like sorcerors and you have made your language as safe as your money.”
Ummm, no sir. This girl is Nigerian Igbo. There are 20 Igbo dialects alone and only 8 adjectives. Eight. I find it hard to believe that she would be this impressed by the words of the English language with multiple meanings and intentions, so much that she would praise how well “you” safeguard money.