BOOK REVIEW: Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

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3/5 stars

Three Rooms is a zippy, quick read ruminating on the experiences of a BAME woman in modern-day Britain–and while it is an enjoyable read, it is suffering a bit from being too familiar.

Hamya’s narrator is a woman of colour who begins work in the fall of 2018 at Oxford as a research assistant, bristling with the privileged students that surround her. Caught up in the developing news around Brexit, her narrative becomes entwined with the narrative of the nation. Months later, it continues as she couch-surfs her way around London on a contract job.

This is obviously similar to the far-superior Assembly, which I read and reviewed last month, and I couldn’t help but feeling this was lacking a certain something that Assembly had instead. I enjoyed the setting–I moved to London in 2018 and living on my own as a “grownup” for the first time, so it did have some level of a personal connection for me. Oxford is rendered beautifully and in a distinctive way from other fiction. But the narrator’s personal journey remains frustratingly undeveloped. The “three rooms” of the title don’t seem to develop her in any way, just provide a space for the bog standard nation-as-metaphor text dominating fiction at the moment.

But Hamya is young–born in 1997–and Three Rooms shows a lot of promise despite not quite being the electrifying debut I was hoping for. But there is still definitely a spark of some kind that I hope will make her next novel worth picking up.

Thank you to Bookstagrammers.com and Penguin/Vintage UK for the review copy in exchange for my honest review. THREE ROOMS will be released in the UK on 8 July 2021.

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