Title: The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois
Author: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Length: 790 pages
Synopsis: The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the problem of race in America, and what he called ‘double consciousness’, a sensitivity that very African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Ailey grows up in the North, in the City, but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women – her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries – that urge her to succeed in their stead. To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors – Indigenous, Black, and White – in the Deep South. In doing so, she must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story – and the song – of America itself.
You know, I’ve seen people call this book a masterpiece and I can only say it’s hard to disagree. In fact I don’t disagree at all. From the very first pages of the book you just know you’re reading something special.
The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois was a novel that I didn’t know had hold of my heart until I realised I couldn’t stop thinking about it, till I was telling people who I work with (who don’t read) all about it, till I couldn’t put it down. I’ve never read a novel this size that quickly.
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers has crafted characters in this book that I know I’ll remember forever. Lydia and Ailey are truly unforgettable. To read about their lives from infancy to adulthood you just take the characters into your heart. They’re real, complex, damaged, vulnerable, loveable and you want them to succeed. Ailey’s character arc was maybe my favourite thing about the book. The way Lydia’s story came to an end had me crying.
The complexity of the novel and the way the timelines are formed are what truly make this book feel epic. It is epic. It’s a tough read at times, in the sense that deals with incredibly difficult things, but it’s also full of joy, love. Also for a book that spans such a vast amount of time, from before the civil war to present day and to have it feel so intimate is a sign of Honorée immeasurable talent.
I think we’re going to see this book around a lot this year. I can only assume it’s going to be nominated for a lot of book prizes and it deserves every single of them.
No review I can write will do this book justice, you’ll know what I mean when you read it. It’s immersive and one of the finest books to come out of America in a long time. Just do yourself a favour and read this book. You won’t regret it.
Thank you so much to 4thestate for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out today.
Until the next review