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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
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This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (Paperback)
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 (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (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. Almost stripped bare by both of them in their desperate need to understand what went wrong, their relationship begins to teeter and fall, and one wonders if it will ever regain it's balance.

Although bleak, this is an excellent novel, with a flash of humour and a lot of humanity. Niven Govinden's writing is engaging, descriptive and incredibly readable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Black Bread White Beer explores the everyday minutiae of a loving relationship that, like microorganisms, can sustain or destroy, 14 Dec 2012
This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (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
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This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (Kindle Edition)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A whingey, whiny, moany man, 1 Nov 2012
This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (Kindle Edition)
Amal's wife Claud has had a miscarriage. Black Bread White Beer covers the next 24 hours as they struggle with their emotions that leave them unable to communicate with each other. Claud discharges herself from the hospital and visits her parents as though nothing's happened, insisting no one is told about the miscarriage. This doesn't prove too difficult, as Claud spends most of the day in bed, only getting up to bury a photograph and her hospital wristband while Amal is at the village fete with his in-laws.

I'd have stayed in bed too, if I were Claud, and not just for one day. Amal is one hell of a whingey, whiny, moany man with a chip on his shoulder about his Indian parentage so big, he must have shares in Maris Piper.

It's a well-written, easy to read novel, although sometimes a bit heavy on the metaphors and similes; some good ("He recognizes the touch like a fingerprint") and some not so good ("Even the echo seems to slide despairingly off each hard surface, slick of unwanted matter; like a Teflon pan coming into contact with mono-saturated fats). An enjoyable read at a bargain price (99p at the time of this review).
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective, 7 Jan 2013
By 
JSC (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (Kindle Edition)
Black Bread White Beer is about a couple who have just suffered a miscarriage. It's a short book. The story covers one day--the day the wife is discharged from the hospital.

What I like about this novel is it's told through the perspective of the male. It's an honest, raw portrayal of the narrator's inner conflict. The reader sees his ugly thoughts, his confusion and hurt, as well as his compassion and sorrow.

To further complicate matters, theirs is a mixed race marriage, Amal is Indian and his wife, Claudia, is full-on British. This makes Amal feel even further alienated. How to handle this situation the way his wife and in-laws expect and in a way that will not dishonor his own parents and culture?

This book is about so many things: race and racism; how different cultures and the sexes grieve; about marriage--how you can hate and love someone at the same time; how a tragedy can either make a marriage stronger or break it; it's about blame and forgiveness; about religion--why does it have to be an all or nothing deal?--("But something was out there, had to be, otherwise how else could they make sense of this? The loss could be explained by science; the healing, not."). And it's about how much a baby is wanted is often the difference between thinking a twenty-one day old pregnancy is a "collection of cells" or a "b-a-b-y."

After reading the novel, I started thinking tangentially about other issues. With women's issues always in the forefront in terms of reproduction rights, I often wonder how men feel about this? Where does their responsibility begin, and where does it end? I think, just like Amal, they must be often dazed and confused as to how they're suppose to feel, or what their roles should be. I thought how difficult being the perfect male must be in today's societies. (Yes, men can be nasty brutes, but do women really appreciate the good ones? Or give them credit where credit is due?) Maybe I started to think about these things because, at times, I didn't find the wife, Claud (she preferred the shortened, more masculine form of her name), very likable.

I had only one problem with the novel. Between the British and Indian cultural references and ways of speech, I was slightly confused at times, especially during Amal's more philosophic musings, but it was a minor issue.

I found Black Bread White Beer to be a poignant, and at times uncomfortable, look at the emotional stages a couple goes through in times of grief and crisis. The author takes a topic that could be merely depressing and turns it into a thought-provoking, unfiltered look at the inner workings of a marriage.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good read from one of my fave authors, 6 Nov 2012
By 
I. READ (Cromer Pavillian, Cromer, Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Bread White Beer (Kindle Edition)
I was really excited to find out this book was released and read it over the course of a weekend. Niven has a real talent to capture modern characters that sums up all the things I find interesting, funny and heartbreaking about normal life.
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Black Bread White Beer by Niven Govinden
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