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PUBLICATION DATE: February 18, 2021
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Castles from Cobwebs: Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize
By (author) J.A. Mensah
I’d always known that I was Brown. Black was different though; it came announced. Black came with expectations, of rhythm and other things that might trip me up.’ Imani is a foundling. Rescued as a baby and raised by nuns on a remote Northumbrian island, she grows up with an ever-increasing feeling of displacement. Full of questions, Imani turns to her shadow, Amarie, and her friend, Harold. When Harold can’t find the answers, she puts it down to what the nuns call her “greater purpose”. At nineteen, Imani answers a phone call that will change her life: she is being called to Accra after the sudden death of her biological mother. Past, present, faith and reality are spun together in this enthralling debut. Following her transition from innocence to understanding, Imani’s experience illuminates the stories we all tell to make ourselves whole.
Reviews of Castles from Cobwebs: Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize
'From start to finish, I was spellbound by the characters (especially Imani), the narrative voice, and the vivid imagery. Mensah intricately weaves complex characters, vivid descriptions, universal topics of love, loss, identity, religion, with themes like the search for a place to belong, into a well spun tapestry, a mind-spinning tale, a heart-pounding novel – and I'm hooked. I absolutely love this book.' — Yvonne Battle-Felton, author of Remembered, longlisted for the Women's Prize 2019 Real beauty and clarity in the prose … powerful and unique.' — Chitra Ramaswamy 'A compelling exploration of memory, race, mothers and the fractured self, Mensah questions the frameworks through which we understand the world and interrogates how to put disparate parts of our identities together to become the most true version of ourselves.' — Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater, winner of the Portico Prize 2020 "Lyrical and magical … a powerful and very readable novel." — Louise Maskill "Mensah doesn't shy away from tough subjects … a well-crafted debut … an extraordinary literary talent and … a thoroughly recommended read." — Emma Yates-Badley * Northern Soul * "A strong debut." "Brilliance and beauty … The writing is exquisite, the plot is thoughtful and complex, and the characters are deeply lovable. This story will be told like folklore, passed on from person to person. And this is me passing it onto you." — Kate Baguley "A sensitive ear for language and observational detail … offers a unique blend of magical realism and social commentary – the past and the present intermingle with colonial history, displacement and family ties to form a rich narrative tapestry." — Reshma Ruia in Words of Colour 'Strong storytelling crafted from a fine delicate web of themes … wonderfully vivid.' "In … Castles from Cobwebs, we gain insight into how identity is not necessarily set in stone, nor is it straightforward or well defined. But rather how it can be complex, ever evolving and and simultaneously painful yet liberating to piece together. "A stunning debut … immersive and captivating … all the threads come together to form the perfect cobweb."
J.A. Mensah is a writer of prose and theatre. Her plays have focused on human rights narratives and the testimonies of survivors. Her short stories appear in several collections. Castles from Cobwebs, her first novel, won the inaugural NorthBound Book Award.