BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Deep Blue Between’ by Ayesha Harruna Attah
A

yesha Harruna Attah’s YA novel ‘The Deep Blue Between’, is the kind of book that will make a mark in a genre that shapes and influences future adult readers and thinkers. It is an offshoot of the author‘s acclaimed third novel ‘The Hundred Wells of Salaga’, but can be read and enjoyed on its own.

The Blurb:

Twin sisters Hassana and Husseina’s home is in ruins after a brutal raid. But this is not the end but the beginning of their story, one that will take them to unfamiliar cities and cultures, where they will forge new families, ward off dangers and truly begin to know themselves. As the twins pursue separate paths in Brazil and the Gold Coast of West Africa, they remain connected through shared dreams of water. But will their fates ever draw them back together? A sweeping adventure with richly evocative historical settings, The Deep Blue Between is a moving story of the bonds that can endure even the most dramatic change.

Literandra Review:

When you enter the world of Ayesha Harruna Attah’s fiction, you enter a part of Africa. You enter a world of red earth, blue seas, and deep roots. But perhaps more importantly, you enter a part of history that is not talked about enough. 

While ‘The Deep Blue Between’ is classified as Young Adult literature it is, at the same time, much more philosophical and rich in symbolism than most YA novels I’ve read so far. 

When you enter the world of Ayesha Harruna Attah’s fiction, you enter a part of Africa. You enter a world of red earth, blue seas, and deep roots. But perhaps more importantly, you enter a part of history that is not talked about enough.

‘The Deep Blue Between’ raises important and deep questions about life, family, and the impact of history, without taking away from the prosaic flow of the narrative. To put it plainly, the reader is taught many valuable lessons without even noticing it. 

In Harruna Attah’s characteristically beautiful prose, she explores and subverts preconceived notions about Africans travelling across the Atlantic. When we think of Africans sailing to the Americas, images of bodies chained together, forcefully loaded onto ships come to mind, but in ‘The Deep Blue Between’ Harruna Attah shows us that there is more to Africans travelling than what some narratives would have us believe. 

In Harruna Attah’ characteristic, beautifully crafted prose, the book explores and subverts preconceived notions about Africans travelling across the Atlantic.

What sets ‘The Deep Blue Between’ apart, is not just the gripping story that Harruna Attah has weaved into the fabric of the book’s pages, but the mixture of historical fiction with aspects of magical realism. While the sisters Hassana and Husseina live their lives apart from each other, they continue to have dreams that leave them with coded messages and hints about each other’s whereabouts. The dreams are a stylistic aspect of this book that I really enjoyed and that added depth to the story, but also flaunted Harruna Attah’s skills as a writer. 

‘The Deep Blue Between’ also brings together cultures, beliefs, and connections from West Africa and South America. When we hear of the African diaspora, the discourse tends to be dominated by the Black people who reside in the US, UK, or EU. The stories and interconnectedness of  Brazilians of African descent are less frequently discussed – in literature as in regular day-to-day conversations. ‘The Deep Blue Between’, however, paints a picture of the connection between African countries and South American ones in a way that not many novels have managed to do in recent years. 

‘The Deep Blue Between’, however, paints a picture of the connection between African countries and South American ones in a way that not many novels have managed to do in recent years.

The YA genre is, unfortunately, currently dominated by Western stories and characters. African young adult readers do have the opportunity to see themselves in books like ‘Children of Blood and Bone’, for example, but we are yet to read a YA novel that not only offers accurate representation to African readers, but that also respects and reflects African sensibilities in the way that ‘The Deep Blue Between’ does. 

[…] we are yet to read a YA novel that not only offers accurate representation to African readers, but that also respects and reflects African sensibilities in the way that ‘The Deep Blue Between’ does.

Apart from the cultural, historical and literary relevance of this book, the bottom line is that ‘The Deeply Blue Between’ also contains a really good story that is relatable, gripping, and deeply moving. This is the first YA novel that I will happily give to my nieces and nephews in Nigeria and that I will keep at the ready for my own future children to read. This book is an unmissable YA novel that will not only speak to the hearts of young adult readers, but that will capture the imagination of readers from across generations and continents – and we could not be more excited to see it published in October 2020 by Pushkin in the UK. If you want to support this book, you can pre-order the book here.

This is the first YA novel that I will happily give to my nieces and nephews in Nigeria and that I will keep at the ready for my own future children to read.