The Old Drift

The Old Drift

3.65 (40 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Electrifying, playful, ambitious, brilliant - a Zambian debut novel that follows three generations of three families, telling the story of a nation, and of the grand sweep of time

'It's difficult to think of another novel that is at once so sweepingly ambitious and so intricately patterned, delivering the pleasures of saga and poetry in equal measure. The Old Drift is an endlessly innovative, voraciously brilliant book' Garth Greenwell

On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man's greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives - their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes - form a symphony about what it means to be human.

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines - this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with colour and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 576 pages
  • 162 x 240 x 49mm | 835g
  • Hogarth
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1781090491
  • 9781781090497
  • 738,318

Review Text

"The Old Drift is an extraordinary meditation on identity, the history of a nation, love, politics, family, friendship and life. Serpell's prose is dazzling. Darting back and forth through the decades and mixing different genres, Namwali has delivered an original, remarkable, magical work that both delights and challenges"
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Review quote

"From the poetry and subtle humor constantly alive in its language, to the cast of fulsome characters that defy simple categorization, The Old Drift is a novel that satisfies on all levels. Namwali Serpell excels in creating portraits of resilience-each unique and often heartbreaking. In The Old Drift the individual struggle is cast against a world of shifting principles and politics, and Serpell captures the quicksand nature of a nation's roiling change with exacting precision. My only regret is that once begun, I reached the end all too soon" -- Alice Sebold "An impressive first novel... The Old Drift is electric with the sense that Serpell is laying down pieces in a puzzle kept teasingly out of sight... A growing sense that The Old Drift could go on for ever is tribute to its inventiveness" -- Anthony Cummins * Observer * "It's difficult to think of another novel that is at once so sweepingly ambitious and so intricately patterned, delivering the pleasures of saga and poetry in equal measure. The Old Drift is an endlessly innovative, voraciously brilliant book, and Namwali Serpell is among the most distinctive and exciting writers to emerge in years" -- Garth Greenwell "An astonishing novel, a riot for the senses, filled with the music and scents and sensations of Zambia. Namwali Serpell writes about people, land and longing with such compassionate humour and precision, there's an old wisdom in these pages. In short, make room on your shelf next to a few of your other favourites: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tsisi Dangarembga and Edwidge Danticat jump to mind. It's brilliant. This woman was born to write!" -- Alexandra Fuller "In turn charming, heartbreaking, and breathtaking, The Old Drift is a staggeringly ambitious, genre-busting multigenerational saga with moxie for days... I wanted it to go on forever. A worthy heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude" -- Carmen Maria Machado "The Old Drift is a stunning achievement: a novel of epic scope and powerful vision that also manages to be intimate, tender, and very funny. A truly important debut from a brilliant new voice" -- Fiona McFarlane "The Old Drift is an extraordinary meditation on identity, the history of a nation, love, politics, family, friendship and life. Serpell's prose is dazzling. Darting back and forth through the decades and mixing different genres, Namwali has delivered an original, remarkable, magical work that both delights and challenges" -- Chika Unigwe "The Old Drift is a dazzling genre-bender of a novel, an astonishing historical and futuristic feat, a page-turner with a plot that consistently and cleverly upends itself. Playfully poetic and outright serious at once, it is one of the most intelligent debuts I've read this year. No matter your reading preference, there's something in it for you" -- Chinelo Okparanta "If, as she writes, "history is the annals of the bully on the playground" then in The Old Drift, Namwali Serpell wreaks havoc on the Zambian annals by rewriting the past, creating a new present, and conjuring an alternative future. In refusing to be bound by genre, Serpell is audacious and shrewd. This is a Zambian history of pain and exploitation, trial and error, and hope and triumph" -- Jennifer Makumbi "Serpell expertly weaves in a preponderance of themes, issues, and history, including Zambia's independence, the AIDS epidemic, white supremacy, patriarchy, familial legacy, and the infinite variations of lust and love. Recalling the work of Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a sometimes magical, sometimes horrifically real portrait of a place, Serpell's novel goes into the future of the 2020s, when the various plot threads come together in a startling conclusion. Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel" * Publisher's Weekly, starred review * "Comparisons with Gabriel Garcia Marquez are inevitable and likely warranted. But this novel's generous spirit, sensory richness, and visionary heft make it almost unique among magical realist epics" * Kirkus, starred review * "Full of magic, history, and humor, The Old Drift will be unlike anything you've ever read" * Buzzfeed * "I'm certain about this one. Read it." * Washington Post * "This inventive first novel by Serpell, a Caine Prize winner, spans two centuries in Zambian history, mixing styles from Gothic to Afrofuturist" * BBC * "Namwali Serpell's spellbinding debut is worth the investment" -- Joanne Finney * Good Housekeeping *
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About Namwali Serpell

NAMWALI SERPELL is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa 39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. Her first published story, 'Muzungu', was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African writing. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for her story 'The Sack'. The Old Drift is her first novel.
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Rating details

40 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 18% (7)
4 40% (16)
3 35% (14)
2 5% (2)
1 2% (1)
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