There have been a lot of recommendations for books by black authors on Instagram recently. I found myself torn between wanting to support black authors and diversify my reading more but also staying true to myself and reading things that I like. I already had Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, and found it lacking compared to the hype. But Half A World Away was being recommended by people without the crazy hype. I was also drawn to it because the cover made me think of cups of tea; how very British of me. I’m glad I gave this one a go because it was truly spectacular.
Half A World Away tells the story of Kerry; a 40 something single Mum struggling to give her son Kian everything she wants for him in life, and her brother Jason/Noah; in his 30s with a privileged life working as a barrister. Kerry has been waiting over 18 years for Jason to come back in to her life after being separated when they were taken into care. Jason; or Noah as he’s now known, doesn’t even know Kerry exists.
To me this story has two halves, it tells the heartfelt tale of two siblings re-igniting their relationship after 30+ years which in itself is enough to be a whole book. But Gayle adds an added dimension with a whole second story that I don’t want to mention and spoil for anybody. I pride myself in often predicting where a book is going, but I honestly didn’t guess this one! There’s actually also a third element which is subtle: race. I loved that racial prejudice is discussed throughout the book but in a subtle way. It wasn’t a core theme to the story but more a reminder of the reality that even those who have had a privileged upbringing and have proceeded to have impressive careers can still suffer ‘casual’ day to day racism. I also found it interesting that Kerry didn’t address her own race and we were left unsure of the colour of her skin for a good few chapters, whereas it was one of the first things we learned about Noah.
It’s not a very long book and the chapters are nice and short so it’s great if you read during a commute to work or if like me you have a terrible attention span when your phone is nearby (it’s really terrible I know). But believe me once you get into part 3 of the story you will not be able to put it down.
I’m usually a pretty harsh critic and rarely give a book 5/5 but this one gets it. Once I get through some of my TBR pile I’m definitely going to look at more of Mike Gayle’s books as his writing is so easy yet eloquent.