Sunday 20 December 2020

Book Review: Popisho by Leone Ross (Fantasy)

Title: Popisho
Author: Leone Ross
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: 20 April 2021
eBook - PDF
Genre: Fantasy
Source: ARC via NetGalley

An uproarious, sensual novel, Popisho conjures a world where magic is everywhere, food is fate, politics are broken, and love awaits

Everyone in Popisho was born . . . with a little something… The local name for it was cors. Magic, but more than magic. A gift, nah? Yes. From the gods: a thing that felt so inexpressibly your own.

Somewhere far away-- or maybe right nearby-- lies an archipelago called Popisho. A place of stunning beauty and incorrigible mischief, destiny and mystery, it is also a place in need of change.

Xavier Redchoose is the macaenus of his generation, anointed by the gods to make each resident one perfect meal when the time is right. Anise, his long lost love, is on a march toward reckoning with her healing powers. The governor’s daughter, Sonteine, is getting married, her father demanding a feast out of turn. And graffiti messages from an unknown source are asking hard questions. A storm is brewing. Before it comes, before the end of the day, this wildly imaginative narrative will take us across the islands, their history, and into the lives of unforgettable characters.

Popisho is a masterful delight: a playful love story, a portrait of community, a boldly sensual meditation on desire and addiction, and a critique of the legacies of corruption and colonialism. Inspired by the author's Jamaican homeland, inflected with rhythms and textures of an amalgam of languages, it is a dazzling, major work of fiction, in conversation with the likes of Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, and Arundhati Roy.


At a glance, Popisho should have been a novel I loved. It is a work of full-on magical realism, and the blurb sounded enticing and exciting. Certainly, I can appreciate what Ross was trying to achieve, and there were elements I enjoyed, such as the general concept and the characters. However, I really struggled to engage with the prose. To be fair, I read this during a super busy week while I was trying to finish everything for both my jobs before the holidays, so perhaps I was simply too tired to give the book the attention it needed. I simply couldn't relax into the cadence of the language and sink into the story, though, which made it a jarring read for me. It just didn't click. I have seen some very positive reviews for this book, so if you are considering reading it, please don't let my more negative comments put you off from giving it a try. I am perfectly happy to admit that this may simply have been an issue of bad timing. Perhaps I will try the book again in the future, to see if I get on better with it then, but for the present it is a 2.5-star read for me because I liked the idea and other aspects but found the prose style too much of a slog.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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