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ARC Book Review: ‘Conjure Women’ by Afia Atakora

Title: Conjure Women

Author: Afia Atakora

Length: 416 pages

Publisher: 4th Estate Books

Synopsis: Freedomtime, 1867. Rue is a midwife and healer, living with other former slaves on the only land she knows, an old plantation where the burned ruins of a once-grand mansion are silent sentinel to a bygone world. Rue protects the secrets she’s carried since before the war, the memories of her strange friendship with the master’s daughter, Varina, and the loss of her mother, May Belle, who taught her everything she knows about the gathering of herbs for healing and the crafting of curses. Rue’s quiet life is disrupted by the birth of a pale child with black eyes, a charismatic travelling preacher and a devastating sickness that haunts her community. Slaverytime, 1854. Slaves and even masters visit May Belle to benefit from her healing powers- as well as from her uncanny ability to cast misfortune on those who deserve it. But May Belle’a talents put her and the man she loved in harm’s way. On the eve of the war, tragedy strikes, and a reckoning comes for May Belle, Rue, and the people on the plantation.

In Conjure Women, we follow the character of Rue who after her mother dies and slavery ends, becomes the towns healer.

I adored this book. I love pieces of fiction set in this historical period, especially if they are done right, and Conjure Women is. One of the best I’ve read in a long time.

I will say this book has a bit of a slow start, it took me a while to get into the story. But once I did, it was just brilliant. Obviously now I’ve finished the book I’ve realised there was so much foreshadowing of what’s to come in the plot, it was brilliant. There’s a few things in the plot I won’t spoil for you, I’ll let you be captivated by the story for yourself.

Conjure Women if full of fantastic characters. The main protagonists, Rue is a character I won’t forget for a long time. You can’t help but connect with her. You spend most of the novel wishing Rue could see the power that’s inside of her. May belle is fantastic too. She’s this strong, ethereal women but all she really wants so to love her husband freely. Characterisation is brilliant throughout.

Towards the end, this book becomes a real page turner. I just had to know how these characters stories would end. It all comes together so well. It truly had some moments that shocked me. It also had moments that made me cry, that broke my heart. I was surprised at the intricacy of it all. The story is weaved together incredibly well, giving it the perfect finish.

Afia’s writing draws you in and doesn’t let you go. The story takes place in different times throughout Rue’s life, ‘Slavery’, ‘Freedometime’, ‘Wartime’ and a few others. Afia, gave herself the hard task of capturing the atmosphere of these times, but she pull it off perfectly. In Slavery, she captures the repression, the fear, the longing. In Wartime, she captures the unknowing, the unsettlement. In Freedomtime, she captures the confusion, the hostility. It’s remarkable. The heart that pours out of the novel and writing is tremendous. Let’s not forget this is a debut novel too. Such talent.

A great piece of historical fiction, I’ve said it before but it’s the best I’ve read in a while. It’s in a league of its own. I highly recommend. I can’t wait to see what Afia Atakora does next. It’s out April 16th.

Thank you to 4th Estate for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.

Until the next review

JTH

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