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Book Review: Black Bread White Beer by Niven Govinden


Amal and Claud are married. They live in London and have a fantastic relationship and life. Together, they decide to have a child, but twenty-one days into the pregnancy, Claud has a miscarriage. The story begins here as Amal drives to the hospital to pick up Claud in order to drive to Claud’s parent’s house in the country for their scheduled visit. The entire story is about the drive down to the country, their brief stay with Claud’s parents, and how they reconcile this tragedy between themselves and the people around them. Although a short book, Black Bread White Beer carries strong emotions, explores healing relationships in the face of the impossible, and two cultures clashing through grief.

14742280An interesting dynamic between Amal and Claud’s parents is centered around race. From the moment Amal and Claud start driving out to the country, I felt the tension between the two rise. Once they arrive at the country house, the way Claud’s parents treat Amal is evident at the lingering racism and bigotry they have towards Amal. Amal is Indian and Claud is British, creating not only a racial divide but a cultural divide too. Although Amal is British (similar to how an Indian as an American citizen is American), he is not accepted. I am not quite sure the intentions by the author when writing the relationships in the book; however, I saw the author infusing the history of colonization and racism between Britain and India into the sparse prose, playing out in the relationships between Amal, Claud, and her parents.

Further, the author was able to explore the expectations of grieving in different cultures and between different gender identities and expressions. How much grief is Amal suppose to show? Who are they suppose to tell? When should they tell Claud’s parents… Amal’s parents? What will the different reactions be from both of them? These questions all come up and are all measured by the main characters. As to be expected, the ending of the book holds no stunning answer to questions about grief and loss. As tough as the topic of the book, the resolution is similarly tough. However, I do think there is a lot of great discussion of what healing might look like from such a devastating personal tragedy for different people.

Black Bread White Beer was a powerful and difficult read. While I cannot even fathom the experience of going through a miscarriage and what that might do to my relationships, I felt the raw emotions packed into this short book. Each chapter, each scene is crafted by the author, has a specific purpose, and carries a heavy philosophical questions with it. It is short, but dense. It is short, but meaningful. Getting a print version of this book might be difficult (especially for those in the US), but the Kindle edition is currently 99 cents . On Amazon.de, the Kindle version is 6,99 EUR and the print version is 10,80 EUR. At the very least, put this on your TBR for 2017!

Final Rating: 4.2/5

Black Bread White Beer


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Black Bread White Beer by Niven Govinden

  1. This book sounds intriguing and heartbreaking. Miscarriages are so hard for everyone involved to deal with when there isn’t any other family drama. I’m adding this to my list!


    Posted by Ceillie Simkiss | December 21, 2016, 12:18 PM
  2. Great review. SOunds like a good books since you really enjoyed how the author has differentiated between how grief must be shown in diff cultures and diff identities. That is a herculean task for a writer


    Posted by Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel | December 21, 2016, 8:08 PM
  3. I see that the book is under 200 pages. That’s a good length for books that are dense, I’ve found. If I’m in the mood, I can appreciate a dense style of writing, but also don’t want it to go on for too long. haha,
    Anyway, wonderful and thoughtful review. I am noticing that I am not reading a lot of European literature. Would love to read fiction exploring cultural divides in Britain, which I presume are distinct (yet similar) to the American racial and cultural divides.


    Posted by Read Diverse Books | December 22, 2016, 12:10 AM
  4. Oh, intriguing but sounds like a tough read emotionally! Your review really tempts me though. I do love British literature and would love the dual cultural perspectives.


    Posted by Laila@BigReadingLife | December 23, 2016, 10:24 PM
  5. Oh yay great to see you reviewing a UK book! Weirdly this feels closer for me not just geographically 🙂 It sounds rough but also like an amazing read. Sadly it’s expensive even on kindle here, but I’ll be on the lookout for a library or kindle deal copy!


    Posted by Bina | December 27, 2016, 6:12 PM

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