Book Review: Brown Girl in the Ring

book cover

It had been a long time since I read fiction when I found this novel by Nalo Hopkinson titled Brown Girl in the Ring. It was very different from the kinds of fiction I have read because first I don’t recall that I have ever read any Caribbean literature (I am definitely putting some Derek Walcott in my to-read list). Secondly, it combines this cultural background (like the names and dialect of the characters) with fantastic elements of magic, and is set in a very different kind of Toronto, Canada. And again I have also not read a lot of books in the magic realism genre.

So to me, the story was quite strange and gripping. Duppy, and spirits and visions and magic and all. And the book even features some of the Yoruba deities I have heard of like Ogun, Oshun, and Sango. I particularly liked the part about the ritual that Mami Gros-Jeanne carried out. The author did not stint, but described it in detail, and then the effect of the magic afterwards. Some of the descriptions (Rudy’s rituals) were so vivid and visceral I had to skim the paragraphs so I won’t feel sick.

The book was also touching. The way the author described the relationships and dynamics between Gros-Jeanne and Ti-Jeanne, and later Mi-Jeanne, and the relationship between Ti-Jeanne, Tony and Gros-Jeanne. I think this is something that makes spending time reading a book different from watching a movie: you get a fuller depth of the feeling between the characters.

I read a large part of it while waiting for a plane in the airport, and time went by really fast! It was a good story overall.