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A House for Alice: From the Women’s Prize shortlisted author of Ordinary People

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By turning tragedy into something beautiful in the first chapter, I knew this was a novel I wouldn’t be able to put down easily. and for that matter they were not particularly impressed with the Queen either for the fact that the flag was not flying at half-mast as it would be if these were lots of British-born white people dying, and for her elitist, unerring disassociation from the politics of her country and the ordinary lives of its citizens whose taxes and historic colonial exploitation helped fund her luxury. And, I did wonder at the framing of the book around the Grenfell Tower tragedy…I was unclear really on why it had such a commanding presence at the beginning of the novel but had almost nothing to do with the rest of the book. Perhaps her death, as well as her life, would be a disagreement of place, and once you have left you can never really go back.

Over the ensuing months the family contends with a range of disputes stemming from and running alongside this development.An orchestral, richly textured portrait of interconnected middle-class Black lives in contemporary London . While I did like the writing and the character development, I was somewhat disappointed with the way the story flowed. At times the narrative seems to tilt towards becoming a state-of-the-nation novel, a condemnation of all that the Grenfell disaster laid bare. Adel is dismayed at the thought of Alice leaving London and her children and grandchildren behind to live alone in Nigeria while Carol thinks they should respect their mother's wishes. As Alice's final decision draws closer, all that is hidden between Melissa and her sisters, Michael and Nicole, rises to the surface .

With rich characters and a particular dynamic only families have with each other, I found myself engrossed in their decisions following their father’s death. The book seems to announce that the story’s dramatic tension will be about Alice’s question of whether to leave Britain or not, but this is just its first trick. If one wants to know about displaced Nigerians, dealing with the racism of their new home, read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A House for Alice is the acclaimed follow-up, for which she was again shortlisted for the Orwell Prize.As Evans dances between viewpoints, food, fashion and, above all, music imbue her setting – a London that’s predominantly black and middle-class – with sensual specificity. Evans is unafraid to face these questions, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say the book argues for the existence of ghosts or an afterlife, there are a couple of hints that, while some things stay lost forever, some can also be found. I found the dynamic between Michael and Nicole (his wife) to be very interesting, particularly Michael’s struggle with loving two people, who bring out two different sides of him. Yet he still wonders if he will ever know anyone the way he knew Melissa, and she in turn is nostalgic for their once safe haven.

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