Hebe De Souza
A sharply funny yet poignant story about a courageous girl growing up in 1960s North India, from an exciting new voice in Australian fiction.
In the turbulent years that follow the British Empire’s collapse in India, rebellious and inquisitive Lucy de Souza is born into an affluent Indian family that once prospered under the Raj. Known as Black British because of their English language and customs, when the British deserted India Lucy’s family was left behind, strangers in their own land.
Now living isolated from the hostile locals who see her family as remnants of an oppressive regime, a young Lucy grows up in the confines of their grand yet ramshackle home located in the dry, dispirited plains of Kanpur. But when it is time to start her education, Lucy finds herself angry and alone, struggling to find her place in this gentle country ravaged by poverty and hardship, surrounded by girls who look like her but don’t speak her language. Encouraged by her strong-minded mother and two older sisters, as she matures the ever-feisty Lucy begins to question the injustices around her, before facing a decision that will change the course of her life forever.
A richly visceral and stunning debut, based on the author’s own childhood, Black British is an unflinching and beautiful narrative about feminism, family and the search for identity.
Capturing the innocence of youth this novel has a charming authentic voice and I loved every word of it. Lucy De Souza is our narrator – she is charming, innocent, well-mannered yet delightfully inquisitive about the world; she likes things to makes sense, to be logical (and the Sisters in the convent don’t speak of logic, rather demand their charges obey without question) and Lucy likes to question. At times humorous but mostly full of intelligent observations of the world around her, this is a very engaging read. Lucy how did you get to be so smart? Family makes such a big and lasting impression here.
A thoughtful look at history, colonialism, migration and displacement with a feminist bent, this story is succinct yet powerful. Hebe De Souza asks and answers the question – what/where is home? Her response is interesting and personal and can be applied to contemporary discussions regarding refuge and migration today. A wonderful, well written, engaging read.