Stories of separated sisters are often heartbreaking and painful, which was something I felt quite intensely with The Vanishing Half. With The Deep Blue Between, a story of twin sisters torn apart in their childhood is heart-wrenching.
When their village is torched down, 10 year old twin sisters Husseina and Hassana are not only torn away from their family but also each other leading them to find new families in new lands. Yet they never cease to forget each other while their shared dreams keep them connected as one twin resides in Brazil and the other on the Gold Coast of West Africa. As the years pass by, their yearning to find the other never ceases.
I was a little apprehensive of reading this as I was expecting a harrowing storyline, but I was pleasantly surprised. Ayesha Harruna Attah has written an uplifting, coming-of-age adventure for a younger audience that’ll also be enjoyed by adult readers too.
I found the 19th Century, post-slavery trade setting in Brazil particularly fascinating. Where the colonial history and slave-trade in Brazil goes overlooked, The Deep Blue Between lays down some clues into the historical context which is otherwise brushed over. The narrative through the lens of teenage girls offers a simplistic yet still enlightening insight that young readers will learn from and enjoy and their journey through the sea that separates them opens up questions into the conditions of travel at the time.
Themes in the book grapple with loss, grief, belief, trauma and forging new communities and I loved how the girls grew into young, skilled women who were known and well-loved by their new friends and families.
I love that it’s an optimistic and hopeful story in a historical setting where so many things could and would have gone wrong for girls on their own. But Attah has intricately and exquisitely crafted a well-paced, engrossing story that you’re more than halfway through without realising it. I whizzed through The Deep Blue Between in a matter of days which says a lot as I’m not the quickest of readers!
My only criticism is that I needed a little more guidance with regards to geography and perhaps that’s more a flaw of my own than of the book itself. What this really means is that you are forced to check a map of the world to work out where the Gold Coast is, now rightfully known as Ghana, and how far Brazil is which leads to the realisation that the task of finding a long-lost twin in the 19th Century would have felt insurmountable, if not entirely impossible. Even then, the journey by ship across the South Atlantic Ocean would have covered an immense distance for that period of time.
- I was kindly gifted a copy of The Deep Blue Between by Pushkin Press. You can purchase a copy here.
- Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books
- ISBN: 9781782692669
- Number of pages: 256