Reviews

  • "Extraordinary, ambitious, evocativeThe Old Drift is an impressive book, ranging skillfully between historical and science fiction, shifting gears between political argument, psychological realism and rich fabulism…a dazzling debut, establishing Namwali Serpell as a writer on the world stage"

    Salman Rushdie, New York Times Book Review
  • "Brilliant...there are moments of such heart-wrenching poignancy that I had to put the book down several times and recompose myself. Serpell writes with the emotional maturity and sardonic smile of one who has lived several times already"

    Leaf Arbuthnot, Sunday Times
  • "An intimate, brainy, gleaming epic... The reader who picks up The Old Drift is likely to be more than simply impressed. This is a dazzling book, as ambitious as any first novel published this decade. It made the skin on the back of my neck prickle...she’s such a generous writer. The people and the ideas in The Old Drift, like dervishes, are set whirling"

    Dwight Garner, New York Times
  • "From the poetry and subtle humor constantly alive in its language, to the cast of fulsome characters that defy simple categorization, The Old Drift is a novel that satisfies on all levels. Namwali Serpell excels in creating portraits of resilience—each unique and often heartbreaking. In The Old Drift the individual struggle is cast against a world of shifting principles and politics, and Serpell captures the quicksand nature of a nation’s roiling change with exacting precision. My only regret is that once begun, I reached the end all too soon"

    Alice Sebold
  • "An impressive first novelThe Old Drift is electric with the sense that Serpell is laying down pieces in a puzzle kept teasingly out of sight... A growing sense that The Old Drift could go on for ever is tribute to its inventiveness"

    Anthony Cummins, Observer
  • "It’s difficult to think of another novel that is at once so sweepingly ambitious and so intricately patterned, delivering the pleasures of saga and poetry in equal measure. The Old Drift is an endlessly innovative, voraciously brilliant book, and Namwali Serpell is among the most distinctive and exciting writers to emerge in years"

    Garth Greenwell
  • "This mesmerizing début novel tells the history of Zambia through three families whose lives—and blood—commingle across more than a century. The narrative is long and dense, but it rarely drags, thanks to Serpell’s eclectic blending of literary traditions, from the Victorian novel to magical realism and Afrofuturism. The revolving cast is full of striking characters... Serpell’s master storytelling may provide a remedy to a problem remarked on by one character: that “most Westerners don’t even know whereabouts in Africa we are.”"

    New Yorker
  • "Namwali Serpell’s vibrant, intellectually rich debut novel, The Old Drift, is in keeping in that tradition, and like any good nation-hoovering novel, it too refuses to conform to expectations… This oddball cast of characters simply represents the joys of the picaresque novel, in which the author’s set design is intentionally surreal and ironic… Serpell is a natural social novelist, capable of conjuring a Dickensian range of characters with a painterly eye for detail"

    Washington Post
  • "An astonishing novel, a riot for the senses, filled with the music and scents and sensations of Zambia. Namwali Serpell writes about people, land and longing with such compassionate humour and precision, there’s an old wisdom in these pages. In short, make room on your shelf next to a few of your other favourites: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tsisi Dangarembga and Edwidge Danticat jump to mind. It’s brilliant. This woman was born to write!"

    Alexandra Fuller
  • "In turn charming, heartbreaking, and breathtaking, The Old Drift is a staggeringly ambitious, genre-busting multigenerational saga with moxie for days... I wanted it to go on forever. A worthy heir to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude"

    Carmen Maria Machado