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The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

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The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen
Published in: 2019
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Harper Collins UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Netgalley: Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in. And she’s right – she doesn’t. At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

Book Worm’s Thoughts: Read the following first paragraph of this book and then tell me you wouldn’t be hooked like I was…

“My parents didn’t seem the sort of people who would end up killing someone. Everyone would say that – except the boy who died, who isn’t saying anything. He carried his story with him off the of the earth, like the others who died along the way.”

This is essentially a coming of age story for two similar characters from very different backgrounds. We have Augusta who is the younger of twin girls born in England, Augusta is intelligent and precocious. While her sister Julia is a people pleaser Augusta learns anything and everything she can which leads her to question everyone in her life putting a barrier between her and them. Meanwhile in Burundi we have Parfait a boy from a large family who like Augusta is intelligent and precocious however in a country torn apart by civil war, murder and rape the best use of his intelligence is to plan his escape over the sea to Europe where he hopes to find a warm welcome and a new life.

The book is told in switching narratives we have a chapter from Augusta followed by a chapter from Parfait, what I really enjoyed was how these chapters were tied to each other in some cases we see the same religious celebration from the two points of view, sometimes the link is something physical like a particular flower that is important in both narratives and sometimes it’s a thought or philosophy that links the two it was interesting spotting the links and how cleverly woven into the narrative they were.

Through Parfait’s story the reader learns a little about life in Burundi and why people would risk everything they have including their own lives to cross the dangerous seas to Europe in hope of a better life. Glen manages to convey a subtle message about refugees without hitting the reader over the head with a heavy political message and I really appreciate this delicate touch.

This is a beautifully written book and while there is a lot of grief contained within the pages there is something much more important and it is that word from the title “Hope”. Even when things appear to be at their worst there is still hope that life will find a way, that people can and do change and that things will get better.

Don’t believe me about the beautiful writing? Here are some quotes to prove my point:

“But there are some things you can’t promise. You can never promise that everything will be the same again. Nothing is ever the same again.”

“Then, on the largest canvas, I painted a girl who could have been my sister, Gloria. The skirt of her dress was made of satin ribbons in rainbow colours, and as she danced, turning in circles, faster, faster, the different colours flew our of the ribbons like paint, splashing the while walls around her, making unlikely shapes like countries that don’t exist. As I went on painting, her dark plaited hair started releasing brown paint, as she twirled, and then the paint shot out of the skin on her arms, and the gold of her earrings.”

“I felt that this was the beginning of something. The beginning of loving. The real way. The crying-for-someone-else way.”

Who would like this? Anyone who loves a beautifully written powerful story will like this. What are you waiting get out there and read this!

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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