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Review of Ours by Phillip B. Williams

Spanning decades from the 1800s to as far as the late 1900s, Ours tells the story of the antebellum US from a different standpoint. At the beginning, we meet Saint, a powerful conjure woman who feels compelled by voices to annihilate plantations in the South and lead the enslaved to freedom in a town they call ‘Ours’, which Saint magically conceals from outsiders. From here, their community grows and takes a new shape, one that doesn’t always agree with Saint’s version of freedom.

The novel shifts after the Civil war and industrialisation creep into the town but at nearly 600 pages, this is a mighty epic, rich in its prose and plot so I won’t detail too much. 

You don’t have to read far into Ours to get the sense that, despite being only his debut, Phillip B. Williams has crafted a modern classic here. His writing is beautifully lyrical and steeped in traditions of epic American literature - I can see this on university syllabuses in the near future. What I loved about this book was the exploration of ancestry and the Black surrealism, African mythology and inclusion of spirituality, hoodoo and conjure. I think this was a really interesting place for a story to begin and though I found this novel a little tough and convoluted in the middle, it felt important that I continue and the ending did not disappoint. This is a really rich book that I would urge everyone to read for a different perspective on this point in history. It is a powerfully moving literary masterpiece and I am sure more greatness will be coming from this author.

Reviewed by Abi.

Ours was published on 22/02/24 by Granta.

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