“When We Were Birds” among the five best fiction books of 2022

Naomi Joseph and Nisha Mal chose the five best fiction books of 2022 for the Teesside Gazette; Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s When We Were Birds is among them. The other four are: Glory, by NoViolet Bulawayo; Mischief Acts, by Zoe Gilbert; Treacle Walker, by Alan Garner; and The Passenger (set in New Orleans and along the coast of Florida) by Cormac McCarthy.

In 2022, we saw Annie Ernaux win the Nobel prize for literature for her uncompromising writing about her experiences. Shehan Karunatilaka won the Booker prize for his darkly comic Sri Lankan political satire, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

There were also a series of screen adaptations and spin-offs that brought us back to some of our favourite books. The new Lord of the Rings series Rings of Power gave fans an opportunity to delve further into Middle Earth, discovering all the lore and  world building that Tolkien meticulously laid out in his books. Netflix also took on the challenge of adapting D.H. Lawrence’s searing tale of passion across the class divide, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The film is a sweet love story but the book is a powerful thing worth reading, especially in our climate of strikes. It was a year of great reading, so choosing the best fiction released in 2022 was a difficult feat. Our academics have read hundreds of books this year and out of those, we have managed to pluck these five. [. . .]

When We Were Birds is a love story ripe with Caribbean folklore and magic realism. Set in Trinidad, it follows a Rastafarian grave-digger and a girl who can speak to the dead, and is a powerful exploration of trauma, legacy and inheritance – with a dash of crime for good measure.

Laden with proverbs and lore and written in a lilting Trinidadian English, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s writing is rhythmic and seductive, carrying the reader along.

“[When We Were Birds] opens with protagonist Yejide sitting on her grandmother’s lap as she tells her a story that opens ‘there was a time before time’. Because of the text’s strong narrative voice, it feels like the reader stays on that lap throughout the novel,” writes Caribbean literature and cultures scholar Leighan M Renaud. [. . .]

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] For full review, see https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/five-best-fictional-books-2022-25703346

Also see our previous post https://repeatingislands.com/2022/12/03/the-best-fiction-of-2022-ayanna-lloyd-banwos-when-we-were-birds/

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