WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2021
WINNER OF DEBUT NOVEL OF THE YEAR AT THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS 2022
A No.1 BESTSELLER IN THE TIMES
'A tender and touching love story, beautifully told' Observer
'Hands-down the best debut I've read in years' The Times
'A beautiful and powerful novel about the true and sometimes painful depths of love' Candice Carty-Williams, bestselling author of QUEENIE
'An unforgettable debut... it's Sally Rooney meets Michaela Coel meets Teju Cole' New York Times
'A love song to Black art and thought' Yaa Gyasi, bestselling author of HOMEGOING and TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM
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 British debut of recent years.
'An amazing debut novel. You should read this book. Let's hear it for Caleb Azumah Nelson, also known as the future' Benjamin Zephaniah
'A short, poetic and intellectual meditation on art and a relationship between a young couple' Bernardine Evaristo, author of GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER
'A very touching and heartfelt book' Diana Evans, award-winning author of ORDINARY PEOPLE
'A lyrical modern love story, brilliant on music and art, race and London life, I enjoyed it hugely' David Nicholls, author of ONE DAY and SWEET SORROW
'Caleb is a star in the making' Nikesh Shukla, editor of THE GOOD IMMIGRANT and BROWN BABY
'A stunning piece of art' Bolu Babalola, bestselling author of LOVE IN COLOUR
'For those that are missing the tentative depiction of love in Normal People, Caleb Azumah Nelson's Open Water is set to become one of 2021's unmissable books. Utterly transporting, it'll leave you weeping and in awe.' Stylist
'An exhilarating new voice in British fiction' Vogue
'A poetic novel about Black identity and first love in the capital from one of Britain's most exciting young voices' Harper's Bazaar
'An intense, elegant debut' Guardian
WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD
WINNER OF DEBUT NOVEL OF THE YEAR AT THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS
SHORTLISTED FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES YOUNG WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD
WINNER OF THE BAD FORM BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD
SHORTLISTED FOR WATERSTONES BOOK OF THE YEAR
LONGLISTED FOR THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE, THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE AND THE GORDON BURN PRIZE
A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD '5 UNDER 35' HONOREE
Pre-order Caleb Azumah Nelson's new novel SMALL WORLDS now
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An exquisite debut, Open Water lovingly explores concepts of masculinity, acceptance and love. At its core, the book revolves around “being seen”, a feeling of arriving at true acceptance amongst loved ones. Caleb Azumah Nelson’s short chapters move with sensitive, flowing prose that delivers an elegant aura around a snaking second-person narrative covering a complex relationship between two young Black British artists. Even in a building background buzz of ominous tension that threatens to smother the book, comfort and safety can be found in the litany of vibrant Black cultural references, making this a richly rewarding read that exposes the magic that comes with opening our darkest parts.
This book reads like a long poem you never want to end. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Definitely a writer to watch.
A writer to watch
British-Ghanaian writer and photographer who lives in South London. Born in 1993. Has received awards for both his short fiction and his photography. This, his first novel, has been heaped with critical praise.
Unnamed twenty-something male protagonist/narrator is a photographer who is captivated by a young female dancer of similar age. She’s going out with a friend of his but the chemistry ain’t right, or at least not as right as it is with said narrator. Cue love story described in impressively poetic terms against a cultural background of being young and black and having been educated at expensive private high schools, to which they both won scholarships for members of racial minorities. Deft descriptions of what it’s like living with racial prejudice, both implied and overt, in contemporary (pre-Covid) London.
Lyrical second person narrative in serial vignette style evocative of snapshots. The early part is YA love story; the racism comes later. In the hands of a lesser writer, this could easily have come off as overwritten but doesn’t.
For some reason, this book reminded me of Conversations With Friends, the first novel by Sally (Normal People) Rooney, which also received considerable critical praise, and left me underwhelmed, although less so than I am with Ms Rooney it must be said. Mr N is one to watch. (Feel free to ignore old white guy opinions.)