Review: Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi

freshwater akwaeke emezi

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Fantasy


Ada’s father wanted a girl child so much he prayed – and his prayers were answered. By another god altogether than the one he prayed for – and thus the children of the snake goddess Ala, bloodthirsty and merciless, were born in the body of Ada, driving her insane little by little.

This is a dark, gritty and delicious fantasy. I was hooked from the beginning! There are several fantasies out there with gods, but a lot of times the stories are rather tame. Freshwater is not tame at all – it makes you feel like you are going through all the dark thoughts Ada is going through, like you could understand the limitation a god feels in human flesh. It was so, so interesting a read.

I had issues with sometimes having to re-read sentences or entire paragraphs to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood things. Some characters are presented in a not entirely clear way, meaning that you have to keep reading to find out if you should know them by now or not.

I adored the myth representation in this book. It’s wonderful to read fantasies set or inspired by myths that aren’t the usual things we’re used to reading, and I loved this one very much. I particularly liked the parts when other gods make an appearance, how different and yet similar they were to each other.

This book reminded me a bit of Middlegame in terms of being a dark story about gods and the consequences of having human flesh but a god-like mind. In terms of mythology and being gritty, it reminded me of Black Leopard, Red Wolf. So if you liked those particular aspects of this book, I think these two will make great follow-up reads!

11 thoughts on “Review: Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi

  1. That’s an interesting take- I read this one more as a metaphor or just exaggeration of multiple personality disorder or other mental health struggles, but I can see how it could be read more directly as magical or fantasy. It’s so interesting to see the different conclusions different readers come to! It’s certainly a unique story. I’m glad you enjoyed it also!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely see how the mental illness aspect works well for this book, but I personally like the ambiguous aspect of it a lot. How being a god could have translated into making her seem/become mentally ill. But you’re right, I see it that way because I want to, not because it was clearly to be interpreted that way.

      I was wondering whether to add a paragraph on that for my review, but I’m so unfamiliar with personality disorders except for seeing it on the media… Did you write a review? I’ll check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree, I love how open to interpretation Emezi leaves this. It’s hard to say on what level Ada’s experience is tied to reality. It’s a novel that the reader can interact with, each on their own terms.

        I don’t have any reliable experience with any mental disorders either, so my review doesn’t go into much depth of comparison. If I remember right I talked mainly in my review about Ada struggling with identity, which is more broadly relatable. I’m no expert on multiple personalities, but I’ll link my review if you’re curious about how it read for me!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I will give it a read tomorrow (sorry, it’s late here), I’m super curious to see what you thought! But yes, I just didn’t know how to start a conversation on gender identity and personality disorders… I am always a bit worried my sentences will sound weird and come off as rude or so because I write my reviews pretty fast in-between tasks/chores etc and writing in English (my native tongue is Pt) things can sometimes come out weird. So if I can I avoid topics where I can’t express myself well. But I’m excited to see what people said about this book and you’re absolutely right that one interacts with the book in a way.

          Liked by 1 person

          • No problem, there’s no hurry! Even as a native English speaker there are definitely topics/discussions I’m hesitant about getting into and try to word very carefully because it can be hard to say what is meant in a way that will not bother anyone; I’m sure it’s even more challenging in a second language. For what it’s worth, I always think your reviews are very thoughtful and informative, and fun to read!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reaction to 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner & Thoughts on the Longlist | Naty's Bookshelf

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