At just over 100 pages, Assembly is a short but stop-you-in-your-tracks powerful read. I often read the first few lines of a book to get a feel for it before coming back to later but I COULD NOT stop reading this.
Opening sentence: You have to stop this, she said.
The stream-of-consciousness structure tells the story of a young British Black woman. She works in a competitive, mainly male, mainly white firm in the City, London.
After a life of playing by the rules, complying and doing everything she can to succeed when all the odds – her gender, her race, institutionalised racism – are stacked against her, she is rising in her career but a health scare makes her reconsider everything.
This endless complying, attaining, exceeding – why?
So many ideas and themes including race, misogyny, unconscious and conscious bias, the wiping of Black history are explored through the narrator and her new outlook on life. Meanwhile, a sense of tension and intrigue is steadily built up around the narrator and her choices, completely engrossing me in her story too.
How do we examine the legacy of colonization when the basic facts of its construction are disputed in the minds of it beneficiaries?
This may sound like a heavy read and it is if you digest all its saying but it feels effortless to read thanks to the amazingly sharp and lyrical way it is written. Natasha Brown’s writing style here might not be for everyone but I loved diving head first into the head of this character and jumping around with her train of thought.
Assembly is unlike anything I’ve read for a while, a novella that has something to say and does that so well. It’s scathing, it’s insightful, it makes you think about things you may not have before and reflect when you’ve finished it. Love it when a powerhouse read hits me like this.
This is Natasha Brown’s debut, so will definitely be keeping a look out for her next book.