I’m absolutely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for A Child Called Happiness by Stephan Collishaw as I adored his previous book, The Song of the Stork and you can see my review of that book here.
To celebrate A Child Called Happiness, not only am I reviewing it, but I have the chance for a lucky UK reader to win a paperback copy of the book. You can enter the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.
A Child Called Happiness was published on 17th May 2018 by Legend Press and is available for purchase here.
A Child Called Happiness
Three days after arriving in Zimbabwe, Natalie discovers an abandoned newborn baby on a hill near her uncle’s farm.
115 years earlier, the hill was home to the Mazowe village where Chief Tafara governed at a time of great unrest. Faced with taxation, abductions and loss of their land at the hands of the white settlers, Tafara joined forces with the neighbouring villages in what becomes the first of many uprisings.
A Child Called Happiness is a story of hope, resilience and reclamation, proving that the choices made by our ancestors echo for many generations to come…
You’ll find an extract from A Child Called Happiness here.
My Review of A Child Called Happiness
Newly arrived in Zimbabwe Natalie has no idea what the country is really like.
A Child Called Happiness is an intense, terrifying portrait of a country permanently on the brink of violence and disaster.
Stephan Collishaw has the ability to transplant the reader into another environment completely through his words. He uses such a beautiful vocabulary and a melodic variety of sentence structure so that I found all my senses heightened as I read. I have only ever been to the border of Zimbabwe from Zambia but I know other parts of Africa well and A Child Called Happiness is a book that captures the area so perfectly.
I thought the title was inspired. Natalie finds an abandoned and ailing child which is subsequently named Happiness. The child’s metaphor for the county is so clever. What happens through the microcosm of that child is an intelligent and moving representation of what is happening in the country. The research to underpin the narrative is wonderful. I have my own image of Mugabe and found Stephan Collishaw has shifted my perspective and understanding.
Although I found Natalie’s story enormously engaging, she and the other characters are less well defined than the country itself at its most elemental level. This is by no means a criticism of the book, but an appreciation of how Zimbabwe, its culture and heritage are at the very heart of A Child Called Happiness. The two main narrative threads weave around each other like strands of DNA so that the reader comes to understand nothing is separate or unrelated. I thought this was a beautiful effect.
Alongside the well researched aspects is a cracking narrative too. I loved the story. There’s a tension that made me quite uncomfortable at times and a depth of sadness for what could be, but may never quite be, achieved. Themes of love and loss, anger and grief, hope and betrayal all give such a satisfying depth so that I immediately want to go back and re-read A Child Called Happiness as I’m sure I’ve missed aspects of this intelligent, beautiful and intense story.
A Child Called Happiness is a wonderful book. It confirms for me that Stephan Collishaw is a writer of integrity and skill who should be so much wider read. I feel privileged to have encountered his writing.
About Stephan Collishaw
Stephan Collishaw was brought up on a Nottingham council estate and failed all of his O’levels. His first novel The Last Girl (2003) was chosen by the Independent on Sunday as one of its Novels of the Year. In 2004 Stephan was selected as one of the British Council’s 20 best young British novelists.
After a 10-year writing hiatus, The Song of the Stork was Stephan’s highly anticipated third novel. Stephan now works as a teacher in Nottingham, having also lived and worked abroad in Lithuania and Mallorca, where his son Lukas was born.
You can follow Stephan on Twitter @scollishaw. There’s more with these other bloggers too:
For your chance to win a paperback copy of A Child Called Happiness by Stephan Collishaw click here.
UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway ends UK midnight on Friday 25th May 2018.