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We Need New Names Paperback – 27 Feb 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (27 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099581884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099581888
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

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

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Top Customer Reviews

By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Jun. 2013
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Darling is a young girl from a slum in Zimbabwe, out of school because the teachers all emigrated, who spends her days running around with her pack of friends and stealing guavas from the plush neighbourhood of Budapest. The prose in this story is deliciously written, and you can taste and smell her environment. A curious feature of the book is how Bulawayo switches between first person singular and plural seamlessly. The characters are well drawn, even with their weird names like Bornfree, Bastard, Mother of Bones, and the Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro. Though dealing with serious issues, there's a laugh a page in this book, and Darling is a pretty unsentimental narrator. The American section of the novel sees a shift in voice, and again this is skilfully handled, as we watch Darling try to change her accent and herself in order to adapt to her new environment. The difficulties of being a first generation migrant with no papers are emotive and make for compelling reading. Has to be one of the best African novels I've read in a long time.
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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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