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We Need New Names [Hardcover]

NoViolet Bulawayo
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
Price: £14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 Jun 2013

*** Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 ***

** US National Book Award 5 Under 35 **

'To play the country-game, we have to choose a country. Everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and them. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti and not even this one we live in - who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart?'

Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn't all bad, though. There's mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices.

They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges - for her and also for those she's left behind.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0701188030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701188030
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

NOVIOLET BULAWAYO was born in Tsholotsho a year after Zimbabwe's independence from British colonial rule. When she was eighteen, she moved to Kalamazoo, Michi­gan.

Product Description


"Bulawayo's novel is not just a stunning piece of literary craftsmanship but also a novel that helps elucidate today's world" (Felicity Capon Daily Telegraph)

"The challenging rhythm and infectious language of NoViolet Bulawayo's emotionally articulate novel turns a familar tale of immigrant displacement into a heroic ballad. Bulawayo's courage and her literary scope shine out from this outstanding debut" (Daily Mail)

"Darling is 10 when we first meet her, and the voice Ms. Bulawayo has fashioned for her is utterly distinctive - by turns unsparing and lyrical, unsentimental and poetic, spiky and meditative... stunning novel... remarkably talented author" (Michiko Kakutani New York Times)

"Often heartbreaking, but also pulsing with colour and energy" (Kate Saunders The Times (Saturday Review))

"Extraordinary" (Gaby Wood Daily Telegraph)

"Creates a fictional world that is immediate, fresh, and identifies the arrival of a talented writer" (Francesca Angelini Sunday Times (Culture))

"NoViolet Bulawayo uses words potently, blending brutality and lyricism in her unflinching, bittersweet story of displacement" (Anita Sethi Observer)

"A really talented and ambitious author" (Helon Habila Guardian)

"A debut that blends wit and pain... heartrending... wonderfully original" (Margaret Busby Independent)

"We Need New Names is full of life -- you can almost feel the sun on your arms and hear the birds in the trees -- and Bulawayo is certainly one to watch" (Stylist)

"A powerful new African voice" (Pride Magazine)

"Bulawayo's use of contemporary culture...as well as her fearless defense of the immigrant experience through honoring the cadence of spoken language, sets this book apart---on the top shelf" (Oprah magazine)

"A brilliantly poignant tale of what it is to be an outsider in a strange land" (Glamour)

"Written in sharp, snappy prose, this is a raw and thought-provoking debut" (Easy Living)

"Enthralling... a provocative, hauting debut from an author to watch" (Elle (US))

Book Description

Ten-year-old Darling has a choice: it's down, or out

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaving in droves... 9 Dec 2013
I admit to being somewhat conflicted about my view of this book. Worthy of its shortlisting for the 2013 Booker, I agree, but I'm also rather glad it didn't win. Let me start by getting my criticisms out of the way and then I'll try to explain why I think it's very much worth reading nonetheless.

This is the story of Darling, a young girl living in a shanty town in Zimbabwe. When we first meet her, she is ten and spends most of her time with her little group of friends. Through them, we get a child's-eye view of the devastation that has been wrought on the country during the Mugabe period. At the half-way point, Darling is sent to America to live with her aunt in Michigan, and the second half is taken up with seeing the immigrant experience as Darling learns about this society that is so different from anything she has known.

The problem I have is that it feels a little as if Bulawayo has started by writing down a list of all the bad things we associate with Zimbabwe and then a similar list of all the downsides of the US. The book is episodic with each chapter being a little story on its own, and each story has a 'point'. So we get the chapter on Aids, one on female genital mutilation, then incest and rape, white people being run off their properties, the rigging of elections and the violence that goes along with that, and so on. In America, we get out of control kids, school shootings, porn, obsession with looks and weight, celebrity culture etc. It's a bleak picture of both countries with the over-riding feeling being that the grass isn't as much greener for immigrants as they expected it to be.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm 18 Jun 2013
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We Need New Names is a debut novel and I want to be generous. However, the novel, although only short, seems to drag and become quite repetitive.

Initially set in Zimbabwe in the late 2000s, we meet Darling, a 10 year old girl, and her friends as they run amok in a poor township. The various and well documented issues facing Zimbabwe were paraded forth: food shortages, rigged elections, hyperinflation, poor medical facilities, AIDS, reliance on NGOs, seizure of white farms... Each issue is neatly packaged into a self-contained chapter and it felt somewhat contrived. Added to this, there was little real depth of characterisation, and little development. There was a high point in the hedge priest, a rather ridiculous man called Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro imposing his religious zealotry on a rather bemused population. And there are smiles as the children get up to various hi-jinx, including scrumping guavas. There is a genuinely distressing chapter featuring an improvised abortion, and there are thought provoking moments as we realise that some of the children came from middle class backgrounds and once had aspirations of education and achievement. Zimbabwe, like some other failed states, was not always poor.

Half way through, the novel switches to the US. This section of the novel doesn't work as well. There are some interesting thoughts about displacement and homesickness; the observation that once you leave your homeland you can never really return because the land you leave will change. However, there's a bit too much madness and it all becomes rather confusing. There are some parallels and some contrasts made between life in the US and life in Zimbabwe, but the lack of a real narrative drive means the reader's interest may well wander.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An African voice 20 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
There is deep pain in this novel yet it races along with a vibrant, joyful energy. The prose has African rhythms. There is detailed observation of people and NoViolet understands what makes them tick but she doesn't always like what they do. She gets great pleasure from her childhood friends and loves them for who they are even when they behave in ways she does not agree with. The duality of the hurt they all suffer in their country with the deep love for the way of life and culture is at the heart of the novel. In her deprived Zimbabwe life, she longs for America and stability. Yet in the second part of the book when she has that safety, she suffers even more pain and feelings of disjuncture. Her African perspective shows up the western life as being much more deprived, despite the material wealth.
The book is also a coming of age novel so some of her feelings of disillusion may be a product of coming to adulthood and having to give up on the dreams of childhood. It is also a novel about identity of a girl/woman and a country. NoViolet feels her identity is fractured by the regime in her homeland, the violence and abuse. Her family is broken by what happens to her father. Then in America she has lost her roots, traditions and her soul and she cannot return. Africa has a raw energy in he novel. It is untamed and connected to ancient ways of being. Mother of Bones does not need anything the NGOs bring. She keeps her dignity and values and history. She has a deep knowledge and a holistic view of life which her own government cannot destroy. The novel does not explain the politics, it plays out the impact on ordinary lives. That way, the writer gives us a deep feel for a way of life, a concern for what has gone on in that regime and a critique of western life. In her colourful and lyrical prose she also gives us hope for the better future that human beings can create.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting and unusual book.
Published 7 hours ago by Jacqui Batchelor
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read
Great book, brought back so many childhood memories
Published 11 days ago by hile
5.0 out of 5 stars This novel had some bad press, I've heard it criticised as "poverty...
This novel had some bad press, I've heard it criticised as "poverty porn", as "politically over simplified" but I felt this was a sensistive, thoughtful and... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Lucie Swannell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Adored this book
Published 20 days ago by Alex Rebuck
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful stuff
Amazing insight into what it's like spend childhood in one culture and be transported into such a different one for young adulthood and beyond. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Ms Alise C. Kirtley
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
Amazon.co.uk recommended "We Need New Names" after I showed interest in "African" literature, maninly after I started to buy each and every book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lola
4.0 out of 5 stars Have not finished yet
I am reading this book for our book club. Presume its Zimbabwe. Am only 20% through so can't say moreat thisstage.
Published 1 month ago by Angela Tunstall
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic read!
A very captivating depiction of the horrifying conditions that have led to the migration of Africans to the west in recent years,from the eyes of a fictional girl.
Published 1 month ago by Maziohkaychi
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Told from the point of view of ten year old Darling, We Need New Names is the story of life in a shanty town called Paradise, in an unnamed African country. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sam
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, powerful but lacking history and story
The characters were interesting but the story was disjointed with little to guide history either in place or time. I wanted more story and clearer explanation of history. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Wendy Roberts
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