Manny and the Baby
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Pub Date 11 Apr 2024 | Archive Date Not set
London, 1936. Two sisters are ready to take the city and the world by storm.
Bath, 2012. Two young Black men are figuring out who they are, and who they want to become.
Manny Powell is forthright, intellectual, and determined to make her mark on the London literary scene. Her younger sister, Rita ‘The Baby’, just wants to dance. Chasing their dreams across smoky Soho jazz clubs, they soon find themselves part of the burgeoning Black ambition movement, and must learn how to navigate it as women. As tensions rise, and fascism and war snap at their heels, Rita finds herself drawn to the mysterious mimic and trumpeter, Ezekiel Brown, from Jamaica, and the trio are faced with choices that will alter their lives forever.
Itai has fled London to his late father’s flat in Bath. Listening to cassette tapes his father made, he realises there is a lot he doesn’t know about the man’s life — who is Rita? Why did his father record her life story? And might she hold the answers to Itai’s questions? Meanwhile, his developing friendship with Josh, a young athlete who moonlights as a dealer to fund his training, is on unsteady ground. As the country prepares for the 2012 Olympics, Josh is under increasing pressure from his bosses to find out just what the hell Itai is really doing in their city.
Manny and the Baby is a character-driven debut novel, full of heart, about what it means to be Black and British, now and in the past.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 2 members
Loved everything about this book. The time settings, characters, music and dance. I found the book to be very engaging and atmospheric as if I was really there at times. I read this in two sittings I really couldn't put it down. I loved the writing and story with deep believable characters. I also liked the contrast flicking between pre war London and more present 2012 of the Olympics as a background setting - the contrast where the world is falling apart as opposed to all nations coming together. I also liked the characters background stories, of black history and how it often felt how they didn't belong anywhere and how home is sometimes about who you're with rather than where you are. I will be recommending and looking out for more from this author
Varaidzo's debut novel, Manny and the Baby, is a fascinating, beautiful thing. There are layers of story here - Itai and Josh in contemporary Bath, and 1930s jazz-age London, whose story is told through tapes Itai's father made before he passed which tell the story of Rita "The Baby" and Manny.
It is an engrossing tale, evocative, and superbly written. She recreates the smoky clubs of London brilliantly; I could hear the jazz. I had to check if really was a debut. I will certainly be keeping my eye out for what Varaidzo does next.
Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for the ARC.