Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler
Yara Rodrigues Fowler's new book skilfully blends poetry and prose to tell the story of a British-Brazilian woman in South London
Stubborn Archivist is a little like finding someone’s notebook on a long train journey and reading it cover to cover by the time you reach your destination. Focusing on a young British-Brazilian woman who has grown up in South London, it maps the lives of her family – including her grandmother, her mother and aunt in Brazil – to her own life in London. We're taken through her experience of love and loss, a first tentative step in a career, sexual awakening and, most importantly of all, identity and belonging.
Written in poetry with prose, Fowler melds these two techniques skilfully. It feels like the unfiltered version of a young person’s life. This is not to say it is not polished – it is – but it has the effect of being real.
The language of the novel is the language we use, capturing the way we stutter and make mistakes when we talk, creating a natural flow to the writing. The occasional Portuguese word has the effect of heightening the sense that the protagonist is balancing between two worlds, beginning to form an idea of who she is.
The time she spends with her friends and family is (often painfully) relatable. The arguments and discussions they have, we will probably all recognise. The novel is a slice of her life, which is ultimately a slice of everyone’s life. Complicated, often messy but full of promise, we only hope if someone found our notebook on the train, it would be half as compelling. [Rebecca Smith]