March ’21 Book of the Month – How Beautiful We Were

A question I am frequently asked is how do I prioritise my Book Review List for Advanced Readers Copies? For one, I love to check out initial reviews on my favourite blogs, magazines and Goodreads to get a feel for it.

So when I saw this book listed by TIME and Oprah Mag as 2021’s most anticipated books, I knew I had to shift my reading pile to make this a priority!

I briefly touched upon ‘How Beautiful We Were’ by Imbolo Mbue in my pre-order list, but this is a more in-depth review.


In How Beautiful We Were, we visit the fictional village of Kosawa –  beautiful and pristine, whose people live as one with Nature and the Spirit.

Then an American company, Pexton comes to drill for oil, pushing the village and it’s environment into rapid deterioration.

Although the villagers plead with them for help, it all falls on deaf years. Until someone decides to step up …

What I loved:

The book is very cleverly structured, told from multiple perspectives, which not only gave a well-rounded view of the plot, but also an in-depth insight into contradictory and unpopular opinions.

Set in the fictional village of Kosawa in Africa, it evokes a beautiful image of lush green hills, dense forests and also some very unsettling customs and traditions – it all eventually ties in to form a lasting image in your mind of a fictional place you might want to travel to someday.

The subliminal message that it carries about colonialism, land grabbing and subjugation of indigenous tribes makes for difficult but essential reading.

What was challenging:

There are some parts in the book, especially about 40% where the plot seems to start dragging. The chapter narrated by Sahel especially is really long. While I loved understanding things from her perspective, there were bits I wanted to skim read, example her monologue on how lonely she is and her attractions to other men stretched longer than I would have liked, it nearly took the attention away from the actual plot.

Final words:

Imbolo Mbue is a new to me author and I am so grateful to have discovered her.

I quickly fell in love with her lyrical narration style and the talent with which she can tell a story from multiple perspectives and still keep a grip on the plot. This is a book that will fill you with nostalgia and a deep yearning.

Above all, How Beautiful We Were is also a powerful commentary on finding the balance between progress and sustainability, and the importance of preserving indigenous communities and cultures.

A compelling and a compulsory read for everyone this year.


Imbolo Mbue’s interview with The New York Times: Here she discusses her inspirations behind How Beautiful We Were. A worthwhile read that explores the years of work she put in towards the book and her life experiences that helped shaped the books’ narrative.

I’d like to thank Canongate and Netgalley for my Advanced Readers Copy. How Beautiful We Were releases 11th March 2021 and will be available to purchase from Waterstones, Amazon and your local bookstores.

P.S. links are guidance, Between Pages is currently not part of any affiliate marketing programs.
P.P.S : Cover image courtesy Goodreads.


    1. Thank you so much! It is a great book, but it’s a slow read, not edge of your seat thriller so it can go terribly wrong if it isn’t read at the right time 🙂 I’ll look forward to you review when you read it.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Also personally I too have started leaning more towards books with an African (as well as Asian) setting as I felt I was reading far too many books set in Europe and USA and was missing out on some really great literature.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aah Japanese literature is beautiful. I was earlier limiting myself to Murakami but I recently did a workshop on Introduction to Japanese literature and have been discovering Kawabata, Oe and Higashino amongst others 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This story sounds so interesting and in-tune with the current happenings in the world. Unfortunately also sounds very real… Do you know whether it was inspired by a specific real case?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello there! Yes I found it to be very relevant to the current times that we’re living in. I am glad you asked that question actually, as it made me look into her inspiration behind this book. As it goes, although it was related to true events, Imbolo Mbue grew up in the coastal town of Limbe which is rich in oil and she saw first hand how the oil brought wealth, just not to the locals. If you check my post again, I have edited it and added a link to her interview 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am glad that my question led to an interesting discovery about the story!
        I’ve just read the interview, it so interesting! Now it got me even more interested in the book 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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