Haunted by a tragic childhood accident, Chala’s whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. After the death of her stepfather, who took his own secrets to the grave, Chala re-evaluates her life and volunteers at a Kenyan orphanage, where she gets caught up in the turmoil of the post-election violence that took over a thousand lives in 2008. But, although she can walk away from Kenya, she cannot walk away from herself… With a poignant insight into Kenya’s recent crisis, Yellow Room is a drama that explores the power of secrets to run, and ruin, our lives.
I’d like to thank Cutting Edge Press for my uncorrected proof copy of Yellow Room (now available in paperback and for kindle), the opportunity to be an early reader, and for inviting me to be part of their first blog tour.
My thoughts on this wonderful book follow, but I’d first like to welcome Shelan Rodger to Being Anne, talking about the importance of location in her life and books. Welcome Shelan…
I was recently described in a local Spanish newspaper as a ‘Nigerian author living in Andalucía,’ which I found amusing as the only thing Nigerian about me really is the fact that I was born there (I left when I was three). But it is true that the question ‘Where are you from?’ is one that I find impossible to answer.
I have a copy of Twin Truths nestling on a shelf somewhere (in very good company), but this was my first time reading Shelan Rodger’s work. not sure quite what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t such a level of beauty in the writing, coupled with acute observations about life that can pierce you to the heart. The characters are very real and (some are) very flawed and damaged: however the causes of their frailty are more about a perception of reality, and how that can shape you as a person. There are many things about this lovely book that will long stay with me – it’s full of the most vivid images, both intimate and on a larger scale, but perhaps most striking is the layering of secrets – lies, deception, self-delusion, misleading others…
The writing is effortless and elegant, quite beautiful in its precise selection of words but surprisingly easy and comfortable to read – except in its subject matter at times. There is love in this book, sometimes evident (I adored Chala’s relationship with her father in all its phases), sometimes difficult to sustain, often difficult to show. The Kenyan scenes are sometimes harrowing and difficult to read, but also so vividly described that you can feel and smell the tension, and appreciate the stark contrasts between exceptional beauty and desperate ugliness.
I guess it’s quite unusual to single out for praise the postscript to the book which sets out its inspiration. It pulled together my thoughts after I’d reached the end – around secrets, “spaces in togetherness”, the issue of identity, the Kenyan backdrop. It also includes a stunning sentence that sums up the book perfectly:
Secrets are like scars that heal over a wound that never quite disappears.
This is a book that defies categorisation, and it was certainly quite a departure from my usual reads – but I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to experience it.
Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures. Born in Nigeria, she grew up among the Tiwi, an aboriginal community in Australia, and moved to England at the age of eleven. After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, she travelled to Argentina, where she spent nine years teaching and setting up a language school. Another chapter in England was followed by six years in Kenya, where she got involved in learning and development, with an emphasis on anti-discrimination. She now lives in Spain, working in international education – and writing.