You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Snobs be warned. Author Akwaeke Emezi has stated in no uncertain terms that their third novel for adults, You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, is a romance, so if the thought of bold declarations of feelings, simmering sexual tension and heady debauchery has you rolling your eyes or sniggering, then this book isn’t for you. Of course, there’s more to the story, and anyone familiar with Emezi’s previous literary novels will be unsurprised to learn that this book also investigates themes of grief, sacrifice, transgression, selfhood and catharsis.

Artist Feyi Adekola thought she was going to spend the rest of her life married to her childhood sweetheart, Jonah. That was five years ago, before the car accident that ripped Jonah away and filled her with an all-consuming grief. With the help of her fearless friend Joy – and a lot of therapy – she’s rebuilt enough of her life to start thinking about dating again. A steamy bathroom encounter at a party leads to her meeting Nasir, who’s rich, beautiful and ready to sweep Feyi away to an idyllic island paradise (on a private jet, of course), where Feyi has been offered a place in an exhibition. Once they arrive there though, Feyi meets Nasir’s father and things become – well – a mess, the kind even Marie Kondo would struggle to tidy up.

It’s safe to say that this is a novel full of questionable choices – I very much enjoyed seeing my own feelings reflected in Joy’s incredulous responses to Feyi’s updates – but that’s part of the fun Emezi is having; it’s as if they are challenging readers to be less judgemental of life’s inherent messiness. Emezi’s lush prose oscillates between pacy and profound; they are equally confident writing breezy dialogue and jet-set luxury as they are excavating the archaeological substrata of trauma. There’s a lively energy in the novel’s matter-of-fact approach to relationships and sexuality, and while the set-up may seem like the stuff of soap opera, Emezi treats most of the characters’ predicaments seriously, giving space and air to their unspoken fears and tentative connections.

With its unique blend of zippy pace, slick style and psychological insight, You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty is never boring and very fun.

Jackie Tang is the editor of Readings Monthly

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You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

Akwaeke Emezi

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