Publisher: The Borough Press
Publication Date: 13 June 2019
Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.
At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.
And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.
When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?
In England, a young girl, Augusta, is growing up in relative comfort and privilege.
On the other side of the world in Burundi, a young boy, Parfait, grows up in poverty and fear.
The book tells the parallel stories of these two very different people as they travel the world each hoping to find something that is missing.
The story is beautifully written, and utterly compelling, with a warmth and gentle humour that flows through the pages. The parallel narrative is well plotted and cleverly done. It really helps to highlight the fundamental differences in the troubles facing both characters.
The two narrators are very engaging characters. There have been a number of books over the past few years featuring quirky protagonists and Augusta falls firmly within that category – she reads the dictionary, is inquisitive to the point of being a nuisance and generally feels that she does not belong in her small town life. I felt for Augusta and understood her loneliness. She dreams of exotic faraway lands and a more colourful life. I enjoyed witnessing the development of Augusta’s character as she heads out to make her own path in the world. Parfait, in comparison, dreams of peace and freedom. Born into poverty and living in the midst of a civil war, he holds on to the hope of crossing the ocean and finding safety for his family. Both characters display a curiosity and a courage that will appeal to the reader.
The story is observant and interesting. It considers the bond of sisterhood, family ties and friendship. It also explores some heavy themes such as war, death, grief, guilt and disability. It sensitively tells of Parfait’s difficult and sometimes heart-breaking experiences as a refugee looking to make a better life for himself and his siblings – a particularly emotive and thought-provoking subject.
All in all, The Other Half of Augusta Hope is a joy to read. It veers from sadness and tragedy to happiness and humour, taking the reader on an emotional and engrossing journey. It is an evocative story of bravery, hope and love. An accomplished debut from Joanna Glen and one which I am happy to recommend.
Huge thanks to Borough Press and NetGalley for the review copy.
About the Author
Joanna Glen read Spanish at the University of London, with a stint at the Faculty of Arts at Córdoba University in the south of Spain. She went on to teach Spanish and English to all ages, and, latterly, was a school principal in London. Joanna’s short fiction has appeared in the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology. She lives with her husband and children on the River Thames in Battersea, returning to Andalusia whenever it gets too grey.