Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.
And she’s right – she doesn’t. At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.
And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.
When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?
The Other Half of Augusta Hope is a unique and sometimes melancholy tale that focuses on two very different worlds. First we meet Augusta and Julia – named respectively for the month that they were born in, living in a little town in England, and then, Parfait – far away on the other side of the world, In Burundi.
When she is very little, Augusta loves the idea of travel and when she sets herself the difficult task of choosing her favourite country in the whole wide world, she eventually settles on Burundi because she likes the word and the way it sounds and feels in her mouth. Subsequently she becomes rather obsessed with Burundi and like a sponge, absorbs everything she can find out about it.
Meanwhile, in Burundi, Parfait is a young man desperately trying to escape from a bloody and horrible Civil War that tears his family apart. He ends up fleeing to Spain, where Augusta’s family have access to a holiday home, and as the years roll by, they continue to visit.
As the years pass, Augusta becomes increasingly unhappy with her lot and feeling second best to her sister, she just wants to run away and escape the hum drum life in which she feels forced to live. In contrast, Parfait, still haunted by his past, would have loved a boring, yet comfortable hum drum life with those he loved, and not to have been forced to escape his home in fear of his life.
The juxtaposition between their worlds is glaring, yet touching. By the time adulthood has approached them, tragedy has struck both Parfait and Augusta hard, and as the years go by, their worlds cross and pass but will they ever stop and see each other, and if they do, what will they see in their very different worlds?
Augusta is an unsettled, chaotic soul. She is flawed and gets a lot wrong, but is well-intentioned and determined. Her story is one of feeling like you don’t fit in, loss, grief and ultimately optimism and grabbing hold of life with both hands.
Exceptionally well written, this book hangs around in your mind after you’ve finished reading it. So beautiful and emotive is Joanna Glen’s writing, I was surprised to find out that this book is her debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.