The Publishing Post
BIPOC Book Club: Bad Love by Maame Blue
By Jia Wen Ho, Shaniah Shields and Leanne Francis
As a team, we celebrate members of the BIPOC community, and to further this, we have started our very own book club through which we share our thoughts on books we have read!*
*We try to keep our reviews spoiler free, but some details are revealed for a richer discussion.
This week, we are reviewing Bad Love by Maame Blue, published in 2020 as a part of Jacaranda’s #Twentyin2020 initiative. We have previously interviewed Maame about her writing journey and the book.
What do you think of the book’s title?
The title Bad Love encapsulates the story of Ekuah’s complicated love life and the relationships of those around her. Bad Love shows us different versions of love, including the difficulties and challenges that come with it.
What do you like best and least about the book?
The depth of emotions that the characters feel. An outburst or a sudden fight always comes down to more than one issue, mirroring the psychological reality of complex emotions and irrationality.
Did the characters seem believable to you?
The characters in Bad Love are multi-dimensional, flawed and raw which not only makes them believable, but also real. You resonate with them, you see them in people you know and that makes you root for them in different ways.
The theme of love plays a huge role in Bad Love. From Ekuah’s relationships with Dee and Jay to the relationship she has with herself and her parents, Blue depicts love in its many different forms. Love manifests itself in the form of lust, travel and laughter as well as heartache, loneliness and anger. As the novel begins, Ekuah reflects on how naive and inexperienced she was during her first relationship. Like so many of us, Ekuah does not understand love or how she wants it to be expressed to her, and so accepts less than she deserves. With time, she soon learns that there is no room for love without heartbreak and forgiveness.
As Ekuah moves between lovers over the years, she also grows as a person, changing and learning from each and every relationship. In the pause between relationships, when Ekuah is finally alone with herself, she learns to follow her own path, finding freedom in it. Perhaps that is what makes the ending a little disappointing, then, seeing as we have seen who she can be on her own. Despite this, Bad Love is a raw and expressive portrayal of love, deepening our understanding of what it means to love honestly, "badly" and with reckless abandon.
Family members and close friends are everywhere in this book. The sense of togetherness is strong: everywhere Ekuah travels, there are family members to meet. These connections are very involved in Ekuah’s development as they open opportunities for her and offer new perspectives, sometimes helpful and other times unhelpful.
Ekuah is an only child to parents who have emigrated from Ghana and he is keenly aware of her family dynamics between her assertive mother, the breadwinner, and her gentle, musically-gifted father who some view as weak. She is caught in-between them and by the unspoken familial rule to refrain from outward affection, showing it instead via indirect gestures and words. Ekuah yearns for what her parents don’t have: to be wholly loved. Yet, no matter how hard she tries, the shadow of her parents’ marriage looms over her, even after moving out. As she interacts with her parents, her deepest insecurities about her own romantic relationships are exposed. It takes Ekuah a lot of "bad love" to know that she is deserving of love, regardless of her difficult parents’ marriage.
In Bad Love, travel is key and plays a pivotal role in self-growth. This coming-of-age novel follows Ekuah across, and immerses the reader in, four cities: London, Venice, Accra and Paris. We are exposed to not only the culture of each new setting, but also the literary and artistic worlds which serve the evolution of the main characters, including Ekuah herself.
In her interview with us, Blue talks about how travel was important in Bad Love because “going to new places and having new experiences has such an impact on shaping who you are.” Indeed, Ekuah finds inspiration and creativity in the people and places she sees while travelling.
Travel and creativity, particularly in arts and literature, are interlinked in the novel, with new possibilities blooming from new outlooks and experiences.
However, the essence of London undeniably runs throughout the whole novel, acting as a force that pulls Ekuah back to her hometown. While travel can be unpredictable, London grounds Ekuah and brings her growth to mature fruition. A slow burner, Bad Love is constantly recharged by every new destination Ekuah encounters and her character development at each stage of her journey.