BOOK REVIEW: THE FURROWS by NAMWALI SERPELL


I honestly have no idea how to write this review because I didn’t really “get” this book, or like it. I understand it’s a story about grief and identity and race, but beyond that, I can’t really tell you much. It’s an experimental novel, but I’m not sure that its experimentation with form is successful. The story is split into two parts, and none of those parts really work: the first is quite repetitive, and then the second feels so different that it doesn’t end up feeling connected to the first part at all. I don’t categorically hate experimental novels, and I don’t need to fully “get” a novel in order to appreciate what it’s doing, or to even like it, but I’m just so lost when it comes to The Furrows. On a more fundamental level, I just did not get along with the writing in this book. The first couple of pages led me to believe that it was going to be lyrical and moving, but really the more you read the more the writing becomes stiff and tonally jarring. Sometimes it’s nice, but other times it’s weirdly grandiose and philosophizing. At one point during a sex scene where the narrator is taking her clothes off the text reads, “the absurdity of this drapery we all wear, the slapstick comedy of removing it.” Little lines like that where the book’s attempts to be Deep end up feeling forced and especially cliched.

I can only speculate, but The Furrows felt to me like a novel that shaped the story around its ideas rather than the other way around, more invested in the ideas it was trying to communicate instead of the story it was using to convey those ideas. All of this is to say, the characters were more a tool for the story’s themes and not actual developed characters. I love novels that have at their heart certain themes/ideas that they’re trying to explore, but when those themes/ideas aren’t actually grounded in the characters and their stories, then chances are I won’t be invested. And I wasn’t: The Furrows went completely over my head, both in the sense that I didn’t get it, but even more in the sense that it was utterly forgettable to me.

Thanks to Hogarth Press for providing me with an eARC of this via NetGalley!


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4 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: THE FURROWS by NAMWALI SERPELL

  1. One of my most recent reads was like this – there was a message but I just didn’t get it and the characters and plot were too obscure for me to figure it out. A little research helped and I think I just wasn’t the audience but it still made for a frustrating and confusing read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah i find that i really struggle with books that put the idea before the characters – it ends up feeling like the story is just a tool to transmit the message rather than actual, engaging narrative…

      Liked by 1 person

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