It is always exciting to be introduced to a new writer and to become immersed in the world they create, so I was excited to have the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for Conjure Women, the debut novel by Afia Atakora, which is published this month!
Conjure Women is an absorbing historical tale in which we are introduced to Rue, a midwife and healer who lives alongside other former slaves in an old plantation within which a burned out mansion remains an eerie reminder of their former lives. But whilst times may have changed, there are still old secrets to be uncovered, and with freedom comes a new set of challenges. We first see Rue as she is delivering a baby, a fair skinned child with black eyes who is considered a bad omen. So when a wave of sickness begins to take hold, it is Rue who finds herself at the centre of the close-knit community’s suspicion. A further challenge for Rue is the memory of her mother, Miss May Belle, a woman who previously held a great deal of influence over the community, a woman who had the power to heal and curse. It is this use of power and spells which was one of the things that drew me to this novel and its exploration of superstition and folklore and its significance on daily life was something I found fascinating throughout. As we discover more about these two women, their lives before and after the Civil War, and the powers that they hold, we begin to uncover the secrets within the community, and the way in which Rue must now fight to find her way in a different world.
With events taking place before and after the Civil War the chapters alternate between ‘Slaverytime’ and ‘Freedomtime’ which helped to build up a vivid image of life in the plantation over a period of time and the changes that take place. The stories of Rue and May Belle are rich in detail and there is a lot of depth to these characters and the world that surrounds them. I was fascinated to learn more about these conjuring women, and the roles that they played within their community, and the spells they would cast, to heal the sick, or to curse those who may seem deserving of punishment. One of the things I most enjoy whilst reading historical fiction is learning something new about a particular era or part of history and this is certainly the case in Conjure Women, through which Atakora has drawn on the stories of African American people and the experiences of slavery in the US to transport the reader to this place in time. I found this novel to be wonderfully written, a story which explores the lives of some extraordinary people, their lives and loves, and the way they are tied together in a changing world filled with magic.
This review was written as part of the blog tour for Conjure Women, you can visit the other stops on the tour on the dates and blogs below: