Other Names, Other Places
by Ola Mustapha
What were we, then, if ‘English’ was a prize out of our reach and ‘Tunisian’ was the mask we wore at home?
Growing up in London with Tunisian parents, wayward Nessie finds herself caught between cultures. Her parents don’t want her becoming too English, while at school she doesn’t feel ‘white enough’ or ‘African enough’ to fit in with any group. She even has multiple names: Nesrine officially, Susu to her family, Nessie to everyone else.
And then there’s Mrs Brown: a charismatic woman who befriends her parents and soon becomes the glue holding their dysfunctional family together. Yet after a catastrophic betrayal, Mrs Brown abruptly disappears from their lives.
Years later, Nessie seeks independence but struggles to escape a pattern of self-sabotage. As unsolved family mysteries resurface, she begins to wonder: what really happened between her parents and Mrs Brown?
‘Ola Mustapha revels in the confusions and squashed experiences of growing up that most would rather forget. This is a novel of rootlessness and family secrets, which tells its truth with briskness and deftness, aiming straight at the reader’s heart’ — Leila Aboulela, author of River Spirit
‘An immersive and gorgeous read’ — Eva Verde, author of Lives Like Mine
‘Ola Mustapha’s storytelling is vigorous and complex. In Nessie, she has created a brilliantly paradoxical protagonist, whose self-doubts compete with an irresistible inner fire. Its rich explorations of culture, identity, and family secrets are at once relatable and revelatory’ — Phoebe Walker, author of Temper
‘Mustapha’s spare, lucid prose explores a complex web of displacement as her main character carves a hard path between cultures and little-understood family loyalties. A searching, honest and evocative book’ — Fiona Vigo Marshall, author of The House of Marvellous Books
‘Ola Mustapha precisely evokes the experience of being a migrant; of the changing self balancing several existences within, along with all the burdens they carry. An impressive and layered novel, by a writer to watch out for’ —Polis Loizou, author of A Good Year