That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson

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That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A search for identity and love that combines a light read with both thought and depth. A good starting point for Dorothy Koomson newbies while definitely not disappointing the fans.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Century
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780893341

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Smitty Smittson (Clemency to be formal!) designs and modifies pre-loved jewellery. Smitty was adopted at birth by the straight and very correct Heather and her dearest, late Don. Although Smitty has always been curious about her birth parents she's never searched. However when her 12 year relationship with Seth crumbles, she decides to move to Brighton, the area from which three decades earlier, as a little black baby she was given away to a white family. There any idea of searching becomes redundant as the world turns and she's the one that's found.

Stand by for a rant...

There's a tendency to chuck all women's fiction in a box labelled chick-lit these days. However this sort of blanket categorisation belies the talent of authors who are able to take us on varied and uncategorisable journeys. Even the cocoa-for-the-soul 'will they/won't theys?' have a place and then there are those who delve more deeply, bringing issues and personalities to the fore, making us evaluate our own thoughts and sometimes changing them. Dorothy Koomson is such an author.

The first thing we notice is that Dorothy doesn't spoon feed. Questions are left in mid-air to tempt us towards answers. Seth and Smitty love each other so why have they broken up? What's the story with the butterfly box? Who the heck is Abi the email writer who intersperses Smitty's chapters? Ok, we suss the last one pretty soon but there again we're meant to, which adds a delicious anticipation.

As I mentioned, this isn't just a tale of love but also a tale of discovery as Smitty – that girl from the unknown, from nowhere – discovers a lot more than she bargained for. Or rather it discovers her. Ok some of the circumstances may be a little coincidental but coincidences do happen and the overall effect is so much more than a glib, throwaway phase in a love story arc.

Dorothy has indeed done her homework and surprises us with revelations from the psyche of the adopted, the adoptees and the mother forced to give away her child decades before. We may be able to guess some of the reactions but Dorothy takes us one step further than this, translating them into behaviour and actions. In this way we're hit from all sides with the connotations of Smitty's decisions as well as those of previous generations.

The real genius to me is, while we're absorbed in the story of a black girl, adopted by white parents discovering her roots and the concurrent emotions, the author hurls another issue from left field. (No spoilers, but it comes as a literary stomach punch.) This is a writer who is bold with her themes because she has the ability to ensure we're right in there with the people she projects onto our imaginations.

In a way Smitty's profession is a metaphor for her own life: the originally cast off is re-made and re-loved. Thinking about it, that's not too different from Dorothy's books as she takes themes and topics we may feel are hackneyed before we encounter her take. Then, at her feet, we understand them – and their importance – anew while coming away with lasting memories of people like Smitty.

Thank you so much Century for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals, then anything by Ms Koomson probably would! If you'd like a specific pointer, try The Ice Cream Girls. If you're already a fan and would like to read something else flying in the face of what's expected from women's fiction, we also heartily recommend Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

Buy That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson at

Buy That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson at


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