Blog Tours Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Coconut by Florence Olajide

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! 

Book Reviews

Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness by Ronnie Spector

I adore The Ronettes’ music, but didn’t know anything about Ronnie Spector’s life before reading this book. I couldn’t be more glad I did read it (in one sitting – couldn’t put it down) because my god, this book was a rollercoaster. It was gripping, funny, heartbreaking, and atmospheric. It was also full of gossip! A splash of the tea: Ronnie Spector has slept with David Bowie and kissed John Lennon. This shouldn’t have surprised me considering they moved in similar circles, but as I’m such a Ronettes, Bowie, and Beatles fan, it kind of made my head explode. I read this book while listening to The Ronettes, skipping to each song as she described the stories behind them.

The book had an incredible sense of atmosphere. Ronnie Spector painted a striking picture of every city she described, but especially Spanish Harlem, where she grew up. Every detail was so rich, I felt like I was right there with her. Reading about her experience growing up as a mixed-race girl in 1950s NYC was both fascinating and poignant. Although the time and circumstances are worlds apart, there were aspects I found incredibly relatable as a fellow mixed girl.

One thing I really loved was Ronnie’s unashamed, vibrant sexuality. It sweat from the pages (or in this case the Amazon Kindle screen). The description of her losing her virginity to Phil Spector to the sound of her song ‘Do I Love You?’ was sensual yet chilling, considering how he turned out.

On a darker note, it was heartbreaking to read about the abuse Phil Spector subjected Ronnie to. Her words strikingly illustrate just how twisted and abusive he was. He isn’t the focus of this book or review, so I won’t add much more – but it was a huge relief to read of her escape with her mother from the Beverly Hills mansion he’d imprisoned her in. She was barefoot, because he’d taken her shoes so that she couldn’t leave.

I loved this powerful, vivid, and down-to-earth account of Ronnie’s incredible life. It really demonstrated that your life isn’t necessarily easy just because you’re famous. Ronnie Spector went through the mill, but she came out on the other side with admirable resilience, humour, and determination.