THE PLOT: ‘Hope & Glory’ by Jendella Benson is a contemporary coming-of-age novel about a British-Nigerian woman on a quest to uncover a family secret. When Glory arrives back in Peckham after the sudden death of her father, she finds her family has fallen apart in her absence. Her brother is in jail, her sister has lost her independence and their mother is headed towards a breakdown. Rather than returning to her seemingly glamorous life in Los Angeles, Glory decides to stay and fix things. However, when she unearths a huge family secret, Glory risks losing everyone in her pursuit of the truth.
RATING: This novel is good but not great, which is why I’m giving it three and a half stars. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the slowly unfolding plot and the themes of grief and loss piqued my interest at the beginning. However, the writing style was extremely dialogue-heavy and it lacked the descriptions of the setting or the characters’ inner feelings. This made it seem very surface-level and many of the potential nuances or complexities of the characters were skated over. Again, I’m from a similar background to the author and I loved the representation of South London and British-Nigerian culture. However, I wouldn’t necessarily buy another book written by this author due to my issues with the writing style and craft.
GOOD BITS: This novel hinges around a very big secret so it’s hard not to give spoilers. However, I felt the way the secret / discovery was drip-fed was very engaging and believable. Non-Nigerians may be confused about how the family relate to each other and how such a big secret could exist within a family. However, I found it a realistic and, in particular, I think BIPOC readers will be absorbed in the harsh but understandable actions and reactions of the main character’s parents. Additionally, I quite liked the main character’s love interest, but I felt the storyline was not properly resolved.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: My criticisms are mostly about the writing style. The 3rd person, past tense narrator felt too distant for a story like this. I wanted more of the main character’s emotions but the narration-style led to short explanatory sentences, such as ‘she was heartbroken’ or ‘Glory was happy with that’, which felt like telling rather than showing. It’s clear that the author writes dialogue first because it’s so prominent. At points the novel felt like a series of one-on-one conversations (often with the same small cast of characters) and there was little interior feeling of the main character or description of the setting.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Sankofa’ by Chibundu Onuzo or ‘Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?’ by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn. I found it hard to choose comparison titles but ‘Hope & Glory’ has the simple writing-style and plot of the former and the slightly annoying character and South London setting of the latter.
Thank you to Trapeze Books, an imprint of Orion, for a #gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ‘Hope & Glory’ is published in the UK on 7th April 2022 and in the US on 19th April 2022.