Book Review: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

“You have always thought if you opened your mouth in open water you would drown, but if you didn’t open your mouth you would suffocate. So here you are, drowning.”

Published in 2021, Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson follows two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.


A delicate and engrossing love story, Open Water is a moving and reflective read told in a brilliantly unique way.

Beautifully written, the story reads like poetry. The use of a second-person narrative puts the reader right in the middle of these intimate meetings, a tentative introspective of acceptance and belonging.

However, the story felt so personal to these two characters that it did put up a little barrier for me, preventing me from being fully immersed in their story. But I really could feel every emotion – every hesitation, fear, regret, and desire – making it a very powerful story.


One thought on “Book Review: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

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  1. I’ve started this a few times and had trouble getting into it. I’ll try again one of these days. I do want to try more books written in second person (the only one I’ve read was ‘Winter Birds,’ which was legit traumatic.)


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