Caleb Azumah Nelson
Mr B's review
Open Water is a beautifully-written, subtle and lyrical 21st-century romance, as well as a considered and powerful reflection on Black masculinity in Britain today. Often reading like an intimate love letter, the language shimmers with extraordinary emotional resonance. – Nicole
‘A tender and touching love story, beautifully told’ Observer 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2021
‘A beautiful and powerful novel about the true and sometimes painful depths of love’ Candice Carty-Williams, bestselling author of QUEENIE
‘An unforgettable debut… it’s Sally Rooney meets Michaela Coel meets Teju Cole’ New York Times
‘A love song to Black art and thought’ Yaa Gyasi, bestselling author of HOMEGOING and TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
‘An amazing debut novel. You should read this book. Let’s hear it for Caleb Azumah Nelson, also known as the future’ Benjamin Zephaniah
‘A very touching and heartfelt book’ Diana Evans, award-winning author of ORDINARY PEOPLE
‘A lyrical modern love story, brilliant on music and art, race and London life, I enjoyed it hugely’ David Nicholls, author of ONE DAY and SWEET SORROW
‘Caleb is a star in the making’ Nikesh Shukla, editor of THE GOOD IMMIGRANT and BROWN BABY
‘A stunning piece of art’ Bolu Babalola, bestselling author of LOVE IN COLOUR
‘For those that are missing the tentative depiction of love in Normal People, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water is set to become one of 2021’s unmissable books. Utterly transporting, it’ll leave you weeping and in awe.’ Stylist
‘An exhilarating new voice in British fiction’ Vogue
‘A poetic novel about Black identity and first love in the capital from one of Britain’s most exciting young voices’ Harper’s Bazaar
‘An intense, elegant debut’ Guardian
A stunning debut novel…Written in a unique second-person style, and with profound insight into race and masculinity, it’s a tender love story you won’t forget * Red * A hotly tipped new voice in British fiction. * Metro * In this achingly tender and intensely moving debut, two Black artists fall in and out of love in South London. Featuring a stunning opening chapter, vulnerability, loss, masculinity and longing are covered. Written in a second person narrative, this is a majestic debut * Cosmopolitan * A brilliant debut whose gentleness and joyfulness are as profound as its examination of the cost of living in a racist society — Megha Majumdar, author of A BURNING Set to the rhythms of jazz and hip hop, Open Water is an unforgettable story about making art and making a home in another person. In language bursting with grief and joy, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the ode to Black creativity, love, and survival that we need right now — Nadia Owusu, author of AFTERSHOCKS Exquisite — Kayo Chingonyi, award-winning author of KUMUKANDA Lush, urban, black, British and beautiful — Inua Ellams, award-winning playwright and poet Open Water is the most mesmerising read. Caleb Azumah Nelson writes voice like a young Baldwin, placing himself both inside and outside the world he describes. Open Water drew me in, hypnotised me and left me, a few hours later, both devastated and a little high. This is the kind of novel which doesn’t let go. — Jan Carson, award-winning author of THE FIRE STARTERS Open Water has a delicate, painterly quality while packing a real emotional punch. Caleb Azumah Nelson is a real talent — Olivia Sudjic, author of SYMPATHY, EXPOSURE and ASYLUM ROAD Open Water is about defiance, mourning, art and music. It is an ode to being a full human being in a society that does not see you that way. It is about clinging to love in a world heavy with injustice and violence. There is not a wasted page — Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, award-winning author of HARMLESS DAYS Open Water is a powerful portrayal of the way that systemic violence can make a person forget softness and vulnerability. It exposes the failure of language to encapsulate feeling and illuminates the love and the anger that rage around the edges of everything — Jessica Andrews, award-winning author of SALTWATER A short, sharp poetic burst of a novel; it crystallises the torments and heat of young love brilliantly — Andrew McMillan, award-winning author of PHYSICAL A debut already attracting awards season buzz, this shattering love story about two Black British artists is a compelling insight into race and masculinity. You’ll remember this author’s name * Elle * A poetic novel about Black identity and first love in the capital from one of Britain’s most exciting young voices * Harper’s Bazaar * An exhilarating new voice in British fiction * Vogue * For those that are missing the tentative depiction of love in Normal People, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water is set to become one of 2021’s unmissable books. Utterly transporting, it’ll leave you weeping and in awe. * Stylist * Open Water is a beautifully, delicately written novel about love, for self and others, about being seen, about vulnerability and mental health. Sentence by sentence, it oozes longing and grace. Caleb is a star in the making. — Nikesh Shukla, editor of THE GOOD IMMIGRANT and author of BROWN BABY Open Water encapsulates what it means to fall in love, explores what it means to move through the world whilst black, and explores the beautiful melding of the two. I will always remember it, and I will always return to this novel. A stunning piece of art. — Bolu Babalola, Sunday Times bestselling author of LOVE IN COLOUR Open Water is a very touching and heartfelt book, passionately written, which brings London to life in a painterly, emotive way. I love its musical richness and espousal of the power of the arts – pictures, sounds, movement — Diana Evans, Women’s Prize shortlisted author of ORDINARY PEOPLE This is an amazing debut novel. It’s a beautifully narrated, intelligently crafted piece of love that goes deep, then goes deeper. You should read this book. Let’s hear it for Caleb Azumah Nelson, also known as the future — Benjamin Zephaniah, award-winning poet, playwright and novelist Open Water is tender poetry, a love song to black art and thought, an exploration of intimacy and vulnerability between two young artists learning to be soft with each other in a world that hardens against black people — Yaa Gyasi, bestselling author of HOMEGOING A beautiful and powerful novel about the true and sometimes painful depths of love — Candice Carty-Williams, Sunday Times bestselling author of QUEENIE
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