This was another Netgalley read and also Natasha Brown’s debut novel. So let’s start with a bit of an overview.
Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Go to college, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy an apartment. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.
The narrator of Assembly is a black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
This was a very thought provoking read about the struggles of young people growing up in today’s world where everything is analysed and you are expected to act a certain way. It is also a statement of what it is like for a woman of colour. This novel covers many issues from race, class, freedom or the lack of and the winners and losers in the world.
It is about one coloured unnamed woman who has been living by the ‘rules’ for so long but now feels it is time to take control of her life and not let anyone get in her way or dictate who she should live. The social and political commentary lays bare every difficult topic from slavery, race, class, misogyny and british colonialism, she doesn’t leave anything out.
The first person narrative was perfect for this novella as it helps the reader to be placed in the main characters shoes and makes you consider your own place in society. Her unknown persona makes the novel that much more interesting as it symbolises how this could be anyone in the same position as her. Her lack of name makes her any person of colour and just one of the millions living like her.
This was only a short novella but the direct, no-holes-barred writing style brought the character’s life and actions to the forefront of the story.
Personally I didn’t like the ending as I feel like her decisions and the reasoning behind it were not a statement on freedom but a personal opinion and perhaps a weakness to some extent. But at the same time I can see what the character’s point was and how she was continuing to reject everyone’s expectations and make her own decisions to take full control of her life and gain that freedom that so many people seek. So from that perspective, it ended her story with the character in full control of her destiny, freedom being a core subject in this novella.
If you like thought provoking novellas commenting on life and discussing topics often thought taboo or rarely discussed then I recommend this novel.
This was a beautiful social commentary and I look forward to seeing what else Natasha has in store.
⭐⭐⭐⭐- a beautiful black history novella which opens your eyes to a variety of topics and makes you consider your own destiny and life and those around you.