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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

A stunning, shattering debut novel about two Black artists falling in and out of love - available for preorder now.

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 respected only for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential debut of recent years.

©2020 Caleb Azumah Nelson (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Open Water

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Poetic writing style but falls short on plot

This writer definitely has a huge potential, but the way this book was written was quite frustrating. The writer alludes to so many really important themes throughout the book such as race relations in London, violence and imprisonment of young black men, the challenges of being black at private school- but most of these stories all take place in snippets of the protagonist’s thoughts and are are not satisfactorily explored in the main plot. Features of the main plot by contrast can seem repetitive and overwritten e.g. endless descriptions of taking various forms of public transport around London to meet a girl, and what seems like dozens of paragraphs spent describing what it feels like to smoke a cigarette while eating chicken and chips- all through a screen of metaphors. This novel would do better by ditching at least half of the love story, and descriptions of south London, and instead describing some of the themes of conflict in more detail which whilst alluded to, are never satisfactorily explored.

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Amazing

loved it beautifully written ,great story. A must read. The language is beautiful too Thanks

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Very enjoyable, like enjoyable butter

Very wonderful to have listened to the author read it out himself. A treasured experience.

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One of the best books I’ve read in the last decade

Stylistics alone put this book at the top of its game, and I’m inclined not to write too much because the book speaks its own merit. A must read.

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beautifully told

Lovely story and so easy to listen (pretty much got through it in a day).

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Beautiful, poetic

Like a prose poem. Really vivid descriptions that left me feeling nostalgic and a bit heartbroken. I liked the way it ended - felt truthful. Beautiful writing.

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Beautiful love story

Having lived in Dublin and now in London and having done relationships across that distance, it was very personal to read this. The prose is beautiful. love as something that makes you swim and drown is such a beautiful analogy. this felt like a first love in a London summer and was so beautiful and Black and hard and light. It was beautiful.

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Beautiful

This was just beautiful. Written so well and read so well. It flows so nice and the words and phrases are amazing in places.
Read in 2 days.

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Brilliant

Best thing I’ve heard in ages. Perfect poetics for our times. I’ll be re-reading! Thanks for the words – get writing, Mr Nelson, I'll be in the queue for your next one.

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Fiercely beautiful.

I felt like I was in a trance, floating on Caleb's words, floating on open water.

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Profile Image for Libby Thompson
  • Libby Thompson
  • 15-06-21

Moving and original

Deeply moving, this book has themes of love and friendship. It’s set in present day London and is about two friends who fall in love but struggle to stay together. With original prose, the author offers profound insight into what it is like to grow up in the UK when you have black skin. Though harrowing and confronting at times, this perspective is critical to understand if we are to make this world a better place. I particularly loved the way the author describes the moment when two people meet and somehow both just know the course of their lives has irrevocably altered and destiny is unfolding. Moments like those are often difficult to convey in words but this author does it beautifully.

The book is narrated by the author. it’s perhaps not as polished a performance as a professional narrator’s would be - but his voice gives authenticity to the story that really works in this case. It’s a compelling read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. One of the best books I’ve read this year. What an incredible debut. I can’t wait to read more works by this writer.