Opening sentence: “That night, when Mrs. Chamberlain called, Emira could only piece together the words “…take Briar somewhere…” and “…pay you double.”
I christened my new Kindle with this book; my last read of 2019, my first review of 2020. Such a Fun Age already has a buzz and having been unable to put it down, I can see why. We meet two narrators: Alix Chamberlain is a white woman in her 30s who is a successful blogger and founder of the #LetHerSpeak feminist campaign, and Emira Tucker is a black woman in her 20s who babysits Alix’s three-year-old daughter Briar and is not quite sure what she wants to do with her life. It’s a running theme amongst Emira’s friends and a constant source of worry for her that, ‘Emira was a bit late to adulthood.’
Such a Fun Age has a truly gripping opening scene and from that point I was hooked: Alix asks Emira to take Briar out of the house briefly one night, while Alix deals with an issue at home. Emira takes Briar to a local store where a security guard basically accuses her of kidnapping Briar. This sets the tone for the race, white privilege and class issues that this book tackles head on.
The story follows the relationship between Alix and Emira and after the above incident, Alix decides she wants to befriend Emira. Emira is not sure about this idea. What this book does so well is skilfully showcase two complex lead characters. The way that each woman treats the other – subconsciously or not – due to their respective race and class is brilliantly explored and the anxieties and emotions that each woman goes through as an individual feels so authentic.
It’s one of those books that the more you think about it, the more you appreciate how layered the narrative is. It has the above overarching commentary, but is also a story of Emira developing her own sense of self and confidence. It is also a love-letter of sorts to the amazing people that work in childcare, it talks about how babysitting is not seen as a ‘real job’ and yet is one of the most influential and hardest of all.
In this interesting interview from The Guardian with author Kiley Reid, she highlights the biographical elements of her debut book and how, ‘No writing is not political.’ Such a Fun Age certainly gave me food for thought; it’s clever, insightful and written in such a fresh, engaging tone of voice that I couldn’t stop reading. My bookish year is off to a terrific start with this gem.
/ Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
/ Published by Bloomsbury Circus 7th Jan 2020
/ 320 pages
/ Rating: 5/5