Homegoing is the sweeping historical epic about two half sisters, Effia and Esi, who are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day.
A horrific look at the colonialism and slavery in Ghana and America across a period of 250 years, Homegoing doesn’t fail to engage. How the author managed to cover so many years and events and tell such a clever concept for a novel and within each chapter and make us care for so many characters seems impossible. Covering fourteen perspectives, and seven generations Homegoing really is remarkable. The story follows the cultural changes the generations experience. Through the many characters we experience tribal life and wars during the 1700’s, the abomination that was the slave trade and so much more.
The amount of history and the sheer scope of different characters, I can’t believe the novel was only 300 pages, each time the characters changed in each chapter, I wanted more! It felt like just when I’d grow to love a character, we moved swiftly on to the next generation. This isn’t necessarily a problem at all, just an observation and a credit to Yaa Gyasi’s writing, making us adore characters within 20 page chapters! Because of this it made me read the book very quickly, as I wanted to find out how each character section ended. The insights into human relationships and emotion and feeling, this book gives you it all. Combined with the history and the emotions it is just absolutely phenomenal.
Furthermore, there are a lot of themes in the book to reflect on. The history of the slave trade is vividly detailed. The whippings, the appalling racism and just sheer regard for lack of compassion and other human life. It makes you wonder what were people thinking? In my opinion it was an honest portrayal of a darker side to some British history that not many delve into.
Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, and I can’t quite believe it, you could easily imagine it was 100th novel not her first! I highly recommend Homegoing, it is one of my best reads of 2017 so far. Some authors just exude and ‘get’ what it means to pour your heart into your characters and Yaa is certainly one of them.