Novel of the week: Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi
Arshi’s first novel is a ‘fluent construction, and deconstruction, of words’
Mona Arshi’s prize-winning debut poetry collection, Small Hands (2015), was striking for its crisp phrasing and sensual descriptions of nature, said Cal Revely-Calder in The Daily Telegraph.
The same virtues are present in her “prismatically gorgeous” first novel – narrated by a British Pakistani girl from London who becomes a selective mute. Rose stops speaking one day at primary school, and remains silent for years – resisting “many an adult’s request”. Unfolding in brief, vignette-like chapters, Somebody Loves You is a “fluent construction, and deconstruction, of words”.
Through Rose, we come to understand that her renunciation of speech is an “attempt to opt out of a world incapable of engaging with what she has to say”, said Stephanie Sy-Quia in The Guardian.
She and her sister are “racialised” – neighbours refer to them as “little brown girls” – and her mother suffers from a mental illness not fully acknowledged in the family. “Use your voice” is a common feminist admonition – but this subtle novel raises the alternative possibility that silence can be a “subversive act of care”.
And Other Stories 176pp £11.99; The Week Bookshop £9.99
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