The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell, review by Hannah Reidell
If you read many of the interviews and reviews around this book, they feature that Serpell joked about writing the great Zambian novel.
It's no longer a joke. This is the great Zambian novel.
This is an incredible piece of writing from an award-winning writer. It is spread across multiple decades, stretching from 1939 through to the near future in 2023 and follows the trials and tribulations of three families across three generations during the formation of Zambia. It tackles issues of race, colonisation, love, family, AIDS, poverty.
The way the book is divided up helps to introduce all of the fascinating characters well. The first three chapters focus on the grandmothers, the next three on the mothers, and the final three on the children. Between each chapter are pages by the mysterious narrators. The way Serpell develops each of her characters and has them gradually mix with the others is well done, and never feels forced. Instead she gradually builds up a rich novel of intricate bonds and complicated relationships.
If you enjoyed 'She Would Be King' by Wayetu Moore, or 'Beauty Is A Wound' by Eka Kurniawan, then this should be on your list. If you enjoy incredible writing, amazing storytelling, then you should definitely add this to you 'to read' pile.