THE PLOT: Love In Colour by Bolu Babalola is a collection of short stories based on ancient myths from different cultures. From Thisbe and Pyramus (Mesopotamia) to Psyche and Eros (Ancient Greece), each story centres the female character and places them in the driving seat of the narrative. There are mythological figures who may be familiar, such as Scheherazade (Persia) and Nefertiti (Egypt), and some who might be less well-known outside of their home countries, such as Yaa (Ghana) or Zhinu (China). Yet all of the stories feel intimate in these modern reworkings, which show the vast love of women of colour.
RATING: This book is a bit of me. I love a short story. I love an ancient myth. I love putting an old tale in a super contemporary setting. So, I’ve got to give this collection five stars. Yes, the first book in a while to get a full five stars from lil’ old me. However, my love for this book goes deeper than the subject matter or format. I adored the writing style, which took you immediately into each main character’s thoughts and world, and made you fall in love with them. Essentially, this book is a masterpiece and Bolu Babalola deserves her flowers.
GOOD BITS: The best stories are worth telling over and over again, and I believe this is true about the best characters. Babalola’s characterization is spot on as she brings the women from ancient stories to life. In each tale, the characters are immediately understandable and likeable. We get their thoughts and feelings, yet there’s still a good amount of movement and setting that’s not too overly descriptive. A great balance, which is hard to strike in short stories. My favourite stories were the ultra-contemporary ones, such as Psyche, Zhinu, Yaa, Naleli, and Thisbe. To me, they felt like reality TV mixed with classic literature, all my favourite things in one.
Babalola also includes three stories of her own, which all worked very well in the flow of the book. In particular, I loved the story set in Nigeria and based on her parents. It was so sweet – a perfect way to end the collection.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: As I was reading, I kept wondering whether the book would feature different types of love, rather than just heterosexual romantic relationships. There is a lesbian romance in the story about Nefertiti, although this wasn’t as physically intimate or descriptive as some of the others. I also was interested in asexual or non-sexual romantic love, as I felt there many stories relied on sex to cement the characters’ relationships. However, after dwelling on this for a while, I appreciate LGBTQIA+ is not the author’s experience and maybe she wanted to leave those love stories to own voices writers, rather than be appropriative.
OVERALL: I just loved it. Honestly, it’s the type of book I’d go back to and re-read because I found it such an enjoyable experience. It’s even inspired me to try and work some of my short stories into a collection, and to emulate writing style in my own work. I’d recommend it to lovers of ‘A Thousand Ships’ by Natalie Haynes and contemporary romances with empowered, strong women. But I’d also just recommend it to everyone I meet.