A powerful, haunting, contemporary debut that steps seamlessly from the horrors of people-trafficking to the magic of African folklore, by an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker.
Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.
Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:
A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall . . . if Sante is to tell their story and her own.
Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe’s novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.
Interview with Yaba Badoe
Why did you want to write A Jigsaw Of Fire And Stars?
I find it almost impossible to pinpoint a single reason for wanting to tell a story because the stories I try to write tend to go through several incarnations before I find the voice with which to tell it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars has been gestating in me for almost twenty years. At first I wanted to write an epic, futuristic tale, a sort of Tarzan story in reverse: a child of Ghanaian migrants washes up in Europe and saves the natives! I called that story Nazrat the Birdwoman. Many years later, I had another shot at it, but this time I tried to write science fiction and called it Jiggers. Luckily for me, I was introduced to Fiona Kennedy, an editor at Head of Zeus, who suggested that I use the characters I’d created for Jiggers but put them in a contemporary setting. This is how A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars was finally born.
Is there something you want readers to take away from A Jigsaw Of Fire And Stars?
Every reader responds differently to every story that’s ever been told. Nonetheless, I hope that most readers will enjoy A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars and, once they’ve read it, be better placed to imagine what it might be like to be a refugee or illegal migrant. In a rapidly changing world where some politicians are stoking flames of nationalism and xenophobia, stories are crucial in helping us appreciate what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.
When you were growing up where did you find the books you wanted/needed?
I was very lucky in having friends and teachers who lent me books and introduced me to writers they loved. One of my first teachers, Mrs Preston, loved A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. I didn’t much care for Pooh Bear myself, and yet, because we were forced to listen to Mrs Preston reading to us after lunch every day (to help our food digest) I learnt to love being read to and then reading aloud myself.
An older friend Janet Stooks, introduced me to Daphne Du Maurier’s adventure romances when I was around12 years old. Before that I’d wolfed down Grimms Fairy Tales, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five, endless comics, the Pan Book of Horror Stories, Eagle annuals and the very first James Bond annual with its glossy pictures of Sean Connery. I even went as far as to ask the librarian of the Methodist Girls’ school I attended, if she’d consider stocking Ian Fleming novels. She ignored my suggestion. So, instead of gorging myself on pulp fiction, I read Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna family saga.
One Christmas, Mrs Pocock, the mother of one of my oldest friends, Frankie, gave me a collection of poetry by D. H. Lawrence. I was about 14 or 15 at the time and Lawrence’s fierce sensuality and love of the natural world hit the spot 100%. It was one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever had.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
I’m a huge fan of country music.
I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
You go first. I’ll follow!
Luna: Cheat!!! 😀
Finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
What’s your favorite disaster movie?
Yaba Badoe is an award-winning Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker and writer.
In 2014 Yaba was nominated for the Distinguished Woman of African Cinema award. She lives in London.
Yaba Badoe on Twitter: @yaba_badoe
Leo Nickolls (illustrator) on Twitter: @leonickolls