Quercus £7.99 (467pp) £7.59 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, By Christie Watson
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Friday 30 December 2011
Skilfully treading the fine line between gritty hardship and homespun warmth, this child's-eye story of a Nigerian family became a surprise shortlistee for the Costa first-novel award.
With 12-year-old Blessing as our narrator, we join the clan as Father deserts them, they quit their Lagos home, and move in with grandparents amid the political unrest of the oil-rich but violence-scarred Niger Delta.
Beyond the struggle to survive, Blessing also has to negotiate a crossing between faiths: "Being Muslim was like being Christian, but with more rules".
For the vigour of its characters and the pace of its prose, with a smartly controlled balance of uplift and upheaval, Christie Watson's affecting but unsentimental debut earns its place in the sun.
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