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Black Bread White Beer [Paperback]

Niven Govinden
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 6.63 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

9 May 2013

OBSERVER BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2012

LONGLISTED FOR THE DSC PRIZE FOR SOUTH ASIAN LITERATURE

Amal is driving his wife Claud from London to her parents’ country house. In the wake of Claud’s miscarriage, it is a journey that will push their relationship – once almost perfect – towards possible collapse.

In this, his latest novel, Govinden casts a critical eye on a society in which, in spite of never-ending advances in social media communications, the young still find it difficult to communicate.

A devastatingly passionate and real portrait of a marriage, ‘Black Bread White Beer’ keenly captures the abandon, selfishness, hazards and pleasures that come with giving your life to another.



Product details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: The Friday Project (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007529864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007529865
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Niven Govinden brilliantly evokes the bleak comedy and deranged exhilaration of modern life. This is the sound of the suburbs.’- Jake Arnott, author of ‘The Long Firm’

‘I’m full of admiration for this novel and the way it captures a couple as a crisis detonates in their marriage and exposes all sorts of emotional and cultural fault lines in the process.’ Alex Clark

‘A novel of genuine power and resonance. It is the kind of book readers long for but so rarely find.’ Stuart Evers

‘In form and scope, “Black Bread White Beer” recalls Ian McEwan’s novella “On Chesil Beach”.’ – Tehelka (India)

About the Author

Niven Govinden is the author of two previous novels, Graffiti My Soul and We are the New Romantics. He lives in London.


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Missed a few tube stops thanks to this!! 18 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Black Bread White Beer

Shunning almost every outside influence, this is a story of two metropolitan grown ups back in a tiny village in Sussex (loved the setting!) during a vey weird 24 hours. I was completely submersed in their lives - nothing else mattered. Loved the flashes of hope that briefly come through despite everything else and the wry observations about supporting characters. Govinden has a sharp eye for the subtleties of human behaviour. One of my favourite new books, well worth checking out.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Black Bread White Beer 17 May 2013
By Lincs Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Black Bread White Beer by Niven Govinden is something of a voyeuristic novel. Spanning just twenty-four hours, the story follows Amal and Claud, a young married couple who are taking a trip into the country to visit Claud's parents.

Amal and Claud have been married for three years, they come from very different backgrounds, but share the same hopes and dreams. Yesterday Claud miscarried their first child. Today Amal is trying to come to terms with the alien-like stranger who sits alongside him in the car, who used to be his wife.

Narrated throughout by Amal, this is a short, yet stark look at modern-day marriage. Not only do this couple have to deal with the horror of losing a baby; a baby that they'd only known about for twenty one days, they also have to deal with the clash of cultures that their marriage has brought about. Claud's white middle-class parents try to deal with Amal's colour and Indian heritage as best they can, emphasising their terms of endearment so that nobody could ever accuse them of prejudice.

There is an underlying tension running through this story which keeps the reader on edge, almost fearful of what may happen. Claud has decided that her parents should not know about the miscarriage and upon entering her childhood home has reverted back to a childlike state. Doted on by her parents, allowed to dress up in her mother's cocktail gown, or bury sad memories in a Tupperware box in the garden - this is Claud's way of coping. Amal, on the other hand is lost. He feels left out, excluded and finds it incredibly difficult to accept the congratulations thrust upon him by the villagers.

Although narrated by Amal and heavily featuring Claud and her parents, it is Claud and Amal's marriage that takes centre stage in this novel.
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Format:Kindle Edition
Amal's recovering from the night before, where he allowed himself to get "stinking drunk" after leaving the hospital, his wife, and the now never to be born child of theirs. The ward sister had chased him out with well meaning remarks of support for his welfare and an understanding that he was in the way. It's now the morning after this fracture in their lives and Amal needs to get to the hospital to collect Claud, his wife, and to make things right.

Black Bread White Beer explores the everyday minutiae of a loving relationship that, like micro-organisms, can sustain or destroy a marriage.Those wonderful quirks of a loved one that can become needles attacking your very essence.

Covering the twenty four hours after the loss of their unborn child, we follow Amal, and through him we learn of his love & the relationship he has with his wife & it's through him we watch it teeter, wobble & slowly fall. Amal is a modern Indian (Bengali) man married to a middle class English Woman, and it's in the heartland of his wife's family that this story plays out; with Claud retreating to her family home after her loss. Claud insists that they don't tell her parents about the miscarriage (the visit is to help her father plumb the washing machine), meaning that they both have to bear their grief alone, isolating them from family, friends & ultimately each other.

This is the first book I've read by Niven Govinden but it won't be the last, in this book he confronts all those issues facing people who dare to commit to another individual and does so with the utmost empathy, passion and yet with a precision that in other hands could have become cold and abstract. Although seen from Amal's perspective, we get an insight into the complexity of a marriage, with all the subtle and not so subtle pressures that different cultural influences can place upon it and how shared memories can become a means of communication, when all around you is turmoil and hurt.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Agonisingly familiar 8 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An honest and at times uncomfortably familiar portrayal of a relationship in a state of flux, and a look at the harsh realities of choosing to spend your life with another indiviual, for better, for worse, and all the many frustrations that you encounter along the way. An enjoyable read.
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