Title: Open Water

Author: Caleb Azumah Nelson

Published: February 2021

Genres: Contemporary Romance, Literary Fiction




Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential debut of recent years.


TAY'S REVIEW  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There is no denying this book was exquisitely written; the soft repetition and fluid prose to blame for every last goosebump I was left with. It was my first experience reading a book written in second person POV and I can’t believe I’ve waited this long. I LOVED that it drove my connection to the protagonist’s perspective so much deeper, essentially putting me in their shoes. The story followed a young Black British man as he experienced the heights of love from the depths of depression, doused in tender moments and an exhausting fight for survival against oppression. Although at times I felt the writing was too tightly wound in poetry that it became difficult to follow, I’m very impressed by the devastating vulnerability that Azumah Nelson was able to capture with only 160 pages and a handful of characters.



NICKY'S REVIEW  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I would describe this novel as a lyrical ode to the light that love can bring, but also the battle which ensues when it meets the darkness that comes from our traumas and vulnerabilities. As well as undisputedly, beautifully poetic. Choosing to write in second person can risk detachment, but for me in this case, it painted a more vivid picture, and afforded me the space to build a deeper sense of connection to the characters, and the narrative. I felt the two main characters ache and longing to be seen as more than what society depicts them to be and I yearned for them as I became more invested as their relationship progressed. @caleb_anelson has mastered the delicate balance between fuelling our desires for an elegant love story, with poignant realism, in the finest of ways. 


Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for sending us an advanced review copy of this book.

You can find more information about the book and purchase a copy here.

RRP: $29.99



"If the heart always aches in the distance between the last time and the next, then heartbreak comes in the unknown, the limbo, the infinity.”



 'Open Water' Book Trailer

NY Times Profile
For Caleb Azumah Nelson, There’s Freedom in Feeling Seen

Open Water Official Playlist

The Voice Interview
Caleb Azumah Nelson on his debut book ‘Open Water’ and why he wanted to finally tell his own black narrative

The Guardian Article
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson review – an exciting, ambitious debut


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published