Blog Tour · Review

Blog Tour: When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo // Review

“Nothing she love more than this full-cupboard feeling: the sweet smell of tobacco, the even rhythm of the rocking chair, the green hills and her granny face brimming with stay.”

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 278

Published: 1st March, 2022

Rate: 4stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Darwin is a down-on-his-luck gravedigger, newly arrived in the Trinidadian city of Port Angeles to seek his fortune, young and beautiful and lost. Estranged from his mother and the Rastafari faith she taught him, he is convinced that the father he never met may be waiting for him somewhere amid these bustling streets.

Meanwhile in an old house on a hill, where the city meets the rainforest, Yejide’s mother is dying. And she is leaving behind a legacy that now passes to Yejide: the power to talk to the dead. The women of Yejide’s family are human but also not – descended from corbeau, the black birds that fly east at sunset, taking with them the souls of the dead.

Darwin and Yejide both have something that the other needs. Their destinies are intertwined, and they will find one another in the sprawling, ancient cemetery at the heart of the island, where trouble is brewing..

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was sent to me by the publisher for review but all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.

My Take

I really loved this book and enjoyed my time reading it. When We Were Birds has some coming of age theme undertones, filled with so many historical references told in two generational narratives. The book is rich in its story telling and it had me gripped from the first page. The book is atmospheric in tone with evocative descriptions of the settings written so vividly I could see Port Angeles.

When We Were Birds set in the Caribbean, written in Patois all through and it made it even more enjoyable. The book is beautiful in language and the lyrical writing is immersive. There are aspects of magical realism and fantasy that make it a magical read. The mythology was great to read up on too. Especially the connection with the dead, what a wow!

“He feel the weight of it in his rucksack and hope that, no matter where he end up, when his mother say her prayers his name was still in her mouth.”

I loved the characters! They come off the page so well and naturally. The characters are written in so well and their progression is great to see; each had a role to play, from the main character to the secondary characters, and they do it so well.

The one thing that I had a problem with is the had a great start, dipped in the middle but it picked up later so it wasn’t much of an annoyance.

When We Were Birds is a stunning debut filled with great story telling and well developed characters. I absolutely loved it and definitely recommend.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

4 thoughts on “Blog Tour: When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo // Review

  1. Bringing a discussion we were having on other platforms to the comment section here. A brilliant review by the way @suckerforcoffe.
    This book is unique and engaging and for a debut that is pure magic. This is the whole point about a book, to open up discussion not close it. We love the confidence in using one’s local language, local Trinidadian speak, and the infusion of local experience (enough apologies and summersaults to others). By the way we are familiar with West Indies accents which comes through the book giving it a natural voice and characters who are warm and identifiable. It is also a complicated book working on different levels to be interpreted differently. Beautiful prose but not easy to follow always, that coming from a little research on local history and the corbeaux with the role the play in life and connections to death. A fantastic book for a book club to get talking, discussing, engaging, which is the whole point.

    1. Thank you for reading.
      Honestly, I don’t think it’s a complicated book at all. Magical realism is something that has been seen in books many times over and the use of local dialect is a reminder that we can’t center ourselves in a story that isn’t ours. I read it as is, a book that is rich in history, brilliantly told.

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