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Summary

A Stylist best book of 2020.

You’re free to decide your future. But how do you escape the ghosts of the past?

A stunning debut novel with echoes of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

The pale-skinned, black-eyed baby is a bad omen. That’s one thing the people on the old plantation are sure of. The other is that Miss Rue – midwife, healer, crafter of curses - will know what to do.

But for once Rue doesn’t know. Times have changed since her mother, Miss May Belle, held the power to influence the life and death of her fellow slaves. Freedom has come. The master’s Big House lies in ruins. But this new world brings new dangers, and Rue’s old magic may be no match for them.

When sickness sweeps across her tight-knit community, Rue finds herself the focus of suspicion. What secrets does she keep amidst the charred remains of the Big House? Which spells has she conjured to threaten their children? And why is she so wary of the charismatic preacher man who promises to save them all?

Rue understands fear. It has shaped her life and her mother’s before her. And now she knows she must face her fears - and her ghosts - to find a new way forward for herself and her people.

Conjure Women is a story of the lengths we’ll go to save the ones we love, from a stunning new voice in fiction.

©2020 Afia Atakora (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"This novel, written in lush, irresistible, and poetic prose, took me into the lives of people in another time and place – into their loves, nightmares, dreams, their unexpected ties – and into the hearts of women I could otherwise never know. I was transported." (Amy Bloom, New York Times best-selling author of White Houses)

"With comparisons to Beloved and Homegoing, this debut is an era-spanning tale that originates in the American Civil War and beyond." (Stylist)

"If you are grieving for Toni Morrison, Afia Atakora is the young writer to read now: the kind of historical novelist who makes you believe she must have somehow seen the places she describes and known these characters herself. Her astonishing debut takes the reader to a Reconstruction-era Southern plantation, where two little girls - the enslaved child of the local healer and the planter’s cloistered daughter - become unlikely friends. Conjure Women illuminates an unfamiliar corner of Civil War history and brings to life an indelible character whose talents, from midwifery to voodoo, will yield her own unconventional path to power and freedom." (Nell Freudenberger, author of Lost and Wanted)

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Just excellent

I expect that Conjure Women will join the list of works such as The Underground Railroad that explores the lives of those held in slavery. It is a powerful story backed up by research into the chronicles of the period. Highly recommended and perfect for audiobook format

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A beautiful story of womanhood & slavery

It is such a rude reminder everytime how dehumanising slavery was and it's long lasting effect esp on Black women. The performance was brilliant. It took me awhile to get used to the jumping the back and forth but once I got into the rhythm, it was a great listen about women in the South during the war and what it means to survive across generations.

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Wonderful women-centred historical fiction

If, like me, you've ever wondered what happened to plantation life the day after the enslaved were declared free, this is absolutely the story for you. Conjure Women is the epic tale of a variety of people prepared for a world that was never to be. A tale of survival, both individual and communal, told through the lives, loves, and hates of women coming-of-age during the US civil war and in the years immediately after. With a sprinkling of magic for those who believe. The intricately-woven non-linear story-telling with rich, complex characters and relationships and surprising turns are far more sophisticated than usually seen in a debut. Afia Atakora is clearly an author to watch. Conjure Women is brilliant. It's a gripping, thought-provoking, yet ultimately incredibly heartwarming novel about generations of black women straining for emancipation in their own ways.

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  • 09-08-20

Not Much Conjuring

"Conjure Women" by Afia Atakora manages the transition from slavery to freedom well. The book fell short on the art and religious practice of voodoo, a spiritual practice acquired from Benin, where it is still the official state religion.