by Natasha Brown, Pippa Bennett-Warner (Narrator)
Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Go to college, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy an apartment. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.
The narrator of Assembly is a black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
Assembly is a story about the stories we live within – those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers.And it is about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life. With a steely, unfaltering gaze, Natasha Brown dismantles the mythology of whiteness, lining up the debris in a neat row and walking away.
“Assembly” by Natasha Brown is a short snappy read that’s received a huge amount of praise since release. The book tells the story of a black British woman from a working class background through her stream of consciousness.
“Be the best. Work harder, work smarter. Exceed every expectation. But also, be invisible, imperceptible. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Don’t inconvenience. Exist in the negative only, the space around. Do not insert yourself into the main narrative. Go unnoticed. Become the air. Open your eyes.”
The narrative reveals the main character’s struggle with racism, sexism and sense of identity. I found it particularly interesting to think about how the narrator’s success may have been down to the fact that her employer was keen to support ‘token’ diversity in the workplace, rather than performance in the role, and I think books like this are a really important step in changing perspectives on hidden racism such as this. Some aspects of the story definitely made me think about my own views and preconceptions.
That said, I really struggled with the writing style, which reminded me a little of Jenny Offill’s “Weather”. I’m beginning to think that books told through a stream of consciousness just aren’t my thing, because despite the powerful meaning and message within these pages, I couldn’t really get into it.
Overall rating: “Assembly” is a short book with some powerful themes that certainly made me think and hopefully does the same to others. I really struggled with the writing style which wasn’t my cup of tea. This was a 2 star read for me.
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