Contemporary Fiction

The Book of Echoes – Rosanna Amaka

20 February 2020
Book of Echoes, The (air/ire/exp) Book Cover Book of Echoes, The (air/ire/exp)
Rosanna AMAKA
Doubleday UK
February 18, 2020

Narrated by the soul of an African slave woman, this is a searing debut novel about hope, redemption and the scars of history Over two hundred years ago in Africa, a woman tosses her young son to safety as she is hauled away by slavers. After a brutal sea passage, her second child, a newborn baby girl, is snatched away. Although the woman doesn't know it yet, her spirit is destined to roam the earth in search of her lost children. Her spirit will make its way to modern-day England, where she watches teenage Michael trying to stay out of trouble as riots spit and boil on the streets of Brixton, and to a sun-baked village in Nigeria, where Ngozi struggles to escape her low-caste status. As the invisible threads that draw these two together are pulled ever tighter, The Book of Echoesasks- how can we overcome the traumas of the past when they are woven so inextricably with the present? Humming with horror and beauty, Rosanna Amaka's remarkable debut marks her as a vibrant new voice in fiction.


A powerful potent story of struggle against poverty and discrimination as a young black man and woman take a journey to break free from a predetermined reality in search of a better life. Driven by an ancestral voice, they are destined to meet even though they live worlds apart, Michael in London and Ngozi in Nigeria.

The African slave trade and the poor souls that were treated so inhumanly is a rich ground for compelling stories of, torn lives, human atrocities, echoes of ancestral voices, and spirits that seek resolution or retribution. The Book of Echoes starts with an African slave who when captured in Africa leaves behind her hidden son and gives birth to a daughter as she arrives as a castaway on a ship bound for London. Put to death along with her partner, Wind, they haunt the West India docks

“My heart cries out for the two, Uzo, my baby boy, and my baby girl, taken from me that morning while I lay dying over there among the barrels of sugar, spices and tobacco, the feel of the cold hard floor against my back.

Each day I search for them, look for them, hunt for them. I did not choose to leave them. I am and will always be their mother, their African mother.”

Now two hundred years later, as she narrates her own story and the stories of Michael and Ngozi, we see the same old racial prejudices and bigotry still echoing in society. Maybe not as blatant but still as caustic.

Michael is facing a difficult time with family issues, money issues, racial discrimination and association with illegal activities. The life he leads and the stark choices he is forced to make are very powerfully portrayed by Rosanna Amaka. Ngozi also has to make very tough choices if she can better her prospects through education and moving away from the family home. Both their lives require the fortitude to keep going through real challenges and end the echoes of hardship and misery that reverberate through generations and an inferred cycle that cannot be broken.

While I expected to be enthralled throughout this book, I wasn’t, and that was quite disappointing considering all the ingredients were there. From the beginning where it seemed to set up a narrative that would have totally captivated me, it then down-shifted and lost its appeal. There were periods when it picked up and the story showed some of that promise but it ended in a predictable way. Rosanna Amaka does provide an authentic voice and her passion to vividly portray the difficulties the black community face, is fabulous and I appreciate her achievement.

I think there will be a great cohort of readers that will really enjoy this novel to the full, but I just have my reservations. I would rate the book 3.5+ stars and I’d like to thank Doubleday, Random House UK, Transworld and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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