I was wandering around a lovely bookstore, looking for a gift, when I saw THEM – the 2 books by Bernardine Evaristo from the same collection as the book I already owned and loved reading: Girl, Woman, Other (my review).
To buy or not to buy? Well, I remember picking them up and then putting them back at least 3 times … 20 minutes later I was going home with 2 books for me and no gift for my friend 🙈
Blonde Roots in a nutshell
Blonde Roots starts from a thought-provoking hypothesis: “Imagine Africans the masters and Europeans their slaves“. The story is built on this what-if scenario, everything being reversed compared to how the history really happened.
In this context we meet Doris, a young girl who is kidnapped from her quiet English cottage and enslaved in the land of Aphrikans. She is going through many experiences as slave, from being a sort of always-smiling friend to a spoiled daughter of a slave master to working on a sugarcane plantation and being whipped almost to death.
Reading Blonde Roots was a roller coaster. At first it seemed an intriguing story, and I was slightly amused by the irony and imagination of Evaristo. The details about whyte hair salons and the switched perspectives on beauty brought a smile on my face.
But then it got really scary, as I realized it was so easy for my mind to shift back to imagining Doris and the other slaves as Black. Usually when I read I see the story like a movie in my head … and in the Blonde Roots movie, the colours of people were switching very fast.
The alternative world imagined by Evaristo
The whole story is build on the foundation of an alternative world, and Evaristo used so many narrative tricks to make is feel like a real one! She makes it clear to the readers right from the beginning, depicting the map of that world. But it gets a lot more tangible while reading the story.
It’s a world of “whyte Europanes” and “blak Aphrikans”. Great Ambossa, a small and wealthy island of Aphrika, has its capital city Londolo. The people of Ambossa shout to the very few whytes who live in the “vanilla cities” suburbs: ‘”Wigger, go home! You’re taking our jobs!”. Sounds like reality but not quite, isn’t it?
Other what-if stories
Reading this type of what-if stories is like going to a gym for your brain, especially if they twist the reality as you know it!
An example that comes to my mind is the TV Series The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history where America is dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The series is based on the book with the same name by Philip K Dick – I did not read the book, but the TV series is definitely worth watching!
Dystopian stories could be seen as what-if stories – for instance, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (my review) or The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (my review). Although they’re not as mind-twisting as stories that play with the past.
It comes as no surprise that I recommend Blonde Roots! It’s more than just a fiction story – it’s a brain-flexing read, a game well played by Evaristo, and a captivating exercise of turning what you know upside-down.
I want to take my brain to the gym again! 🙂 What brain-flexing books do you recommend?
‘Till next time … happy reading!