Open Water – Caleb Azumah Nelson


Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.


One thing that is clear after reading this is that I’m definitely not used to this style of narration and writing – I’d say it’s not my preferred but I understand why it’s written like this and what it really adds to the storyline.

I kept on having to remind myself to slow down and did have to consistently re-read sections to get the full effect. There were specific lines and metaphors that the author revisits time and time again which becomes very poignant.

This story is honest and very moving, I could relate to the first love aspects but obviously cannot relate to the truths of being a black man living in London.

At only 145 pages long you don’t really have anything to lose by trying this book, and like me, you might be pleasantly surprised.


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