Not to be Overlooked: Issue 1
Not to be Overlooked reviews introduce a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. The inaugural column has a fantastic slate covering poetry and fiction with reviews by Klara (War Dove), Lauren (Remembered) and Emily (Saltwater).
War Dove by Troy Cabida
Published by Bad Betty Press, April 2020
The best poetry, I find, leaves a mark on your heart. Troy Cabida does exactly that with his debut poetry pamphlet War Dove. The titular poem sees Cabida dismantle the concept of forgiveness and explores it through its various separated pieces; you can feel the poet’s torment and inner turmoil building up as he lays his soul bare, opening up his emotions to the world.
War Dove takes you on a journey. It is a mind map of Cabida’s mental and emotional wellbeing; a tale of growth, change and acceptance. The writing gives the reader the impression that they really are living inside the poet’s head and Cabida expresses his emotions so profoundly that you can’t help but become immersed in his words and root for the dove to heal and soar.
Upon finishing the last poem in War Dove, I was left with a vividly strong image, as if I had been witnessing an artist at work: Flicking through the sketchbook, the injured dove is healed, and he learns to soar. He is flying now.
This is just the beginning for Troy Cabida, and this up and coming poet is one to keep a close eye on – another battle cry awaits.
Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
Published by Dialogue Books, August 2019 (Paperback Edition)
Yvonnes Battle-Felton’s debut novel, Remembered, is a book I haven’t heard much about, despite making it onto the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019.
Now more than ever, this is such an important read.
Set in Philadelphia, 1910, a streetcar has been driven into a store window. Edward, a Black man, is the prime suspect. Induced into a coma as the result of White witnesses attacking him, Spring, his mother and an emancipated slave, must tell him the history of their family before it is too late.
It’s rare to come across a book that says so much with so little. Combining historical fiction with beautiful prose, Battle-Felton writes a moving story on slavery and family. What makes the novel so poignant for me is Battle-Felton’s ominous silence. We never truly understand Edward’s involvement in the crash – was it intentional or is he a scapegoat? Battle-Felton is powerfully telling us that, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. As a Black man, society has a track-record of using prejudice instead of evidence to unjustly vilify and criminalise the likes of Edward. It’s the book’s subtleties like this that make it worthy of all the praise.
Saltwater by Jessica Andrews
Published by Sceptre, April 2020 (Paperback Edition)
I inhaled Saltwater. It is effortlessly and weightlessly lyrical, yet soberingly grounded and anchoring. Andrews’ words connect the disparity between the physical body and the perpetually changing, wanting mind of Lucy – a girl who feels small and invisible yet glittering with possibilities as she embarks upon finding herself in her new life in London, leaving working-class life in Sunderland and Donegal behind.
The novel’s lingering chapters as short as one line long allow the often sore and painful events that shape Lucy’s teenage life to crash down like lead. Andrews is brilliantly playful as she depicts first experiences as if they could be anyone’s memories. Lucy’s journey into self-realisation is poignant and unflinchingly honest – I was often close to tears.
Saltwater seems, on the surface, to be a novel that celebrates the way that the future can enable us to reshape ourselves. However, it is ultimately an ode to the people of the past and the experiences that permanently shape who we are. At the novel’s core, Andrews grapples with the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship – two entities that orbit around each other, navigating through life’s turbulences. Andrews’ stunning debut should be a staple of every twenty-something who is on the cusp of new beginnings.