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
  • Brilliantly inventive

    Joyce Carol Oates, Times Literary Supplement
  • 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
  • A vast, ambitious and polyphonous debut novel by a writer whose criticism and short stories I’ve admired for years

    Robert Macfarlane, Big Issue, *Books of the Year*
  • The Old Drift is, to me, the great African novel of the twenty-first century. The scale, the characters, the polish and lyricism of the passages all conspire to tell an unforgettable tale. At last, a book that acknowledges that the African lives with the fantastic and mundane. At last, an African book of unarguable universality. Namwali Serpell has created something specifically Zambian and generally African at the same time. The Old Drift is everything fiction should be, and everything those of us who write should aspire to

    Tade Thompson, chair of judges of the Arthur C. Clark Award 2020
  • 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

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