NETGALLEY REVIEW: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson


5/5 stars

I’ll cut straight to the chase with this one: Open Water is one of the best books I’ve read recently, and I expect I will be breathlessly begging everyone I know to read it soon.

Open Water is a poetic and beautiful exploration of modern relationships and Black British life, told through the perspective of our unnamed narrator, a man pursuing an on-again, off-again relationship against a backdrop of South London. It is also potentially one of the best books I’ve had the honour of reading through NetGalley–and when this is released, I fully expect it will be on everyone’s mind for the rest of the year.

The characters bond quickly through their shared experience as scholarship students in prestigious private schools, and through their shared love of art and creative pursuits in an economy increasingly defined by a nebulous sort of productivity. Caleb Azumah Nelson’s prose is spare and illuminating, with local details that I absolutely loved–I used to live in Peckham and recognised so many of the locations sprinkled throughout Nelson’s novel.

This is a short read–I inhaled it in just one night–but an affecting one. An unconventional romance with a sucker-punch ending that goes beyond our central couple, Open Water is absolutely fated to become the next Normal People.

Thank you to NetGalley and Viking for the ARC.

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