Memoirs that read like novels are my favourite kind, and this one succeeds in covering such a wide breadth of Florence’s (or Funmi’s, as she is called in the book) experiences: first, as a Black child living in 1960s England. Then as a British-born girl adjusting to life in Nigeria, and finally, moving back to England as an adult and breaking through the barriers she encounters.
Children are said to be resilient, but the sheer amount of resilience Funmi is forced to possess is shocking. There are some distressing scenes surrounding abuse she suffered as a child, but her grit and spirit imbues every page so strongly that I couldn’t put the book down.
The second half was my favourite: her time at boarding school, university, then moving to and living in London again. Olajide hits the nail on the head with her exploration of always feeling somewhat out of place and not quite fitting in with any of the cultures you belong to. But it isn’t all hardship – I loved following her journey as she became secure in her dual identity, accepting that there are things to appreciate and dislike from both sides.
I felt very familiar with the struggle of balancing multiple cultural identities and the complex feelings that accompany it. The adjective ‘coconut’ is often deployed in a less than positive way, so it’s wonderful how Olajide reclaims it, turning it into a descriptor that celebrates the amalgamation of cultures she embodies: ‘I didn’t have to be one or the other.’
Many thanks to @natakabooks for the review copy and for setting up the tour!