Lara is a powerful semi-autobiographical novel-in-verse based on Bernardine Evaristo’s own childhood and family history. The eponymous Lara is a mixed-race girl raised during the 60s and 70s in Woolwich, then a white suburb of London. Her father, Taiwo, is Nigerian, and her mother, Ellen, is white British. They marry in the 1950s, in spite of fierce opposition from Ellen’s family, and quickly produce eight children in ten years. Lara is their fourth child and we follow her journey from restricted childhood to conflicted early adulthood, and then from London to Nigeria to Brazil as she seeks to understand herself and her ancestry.
The novel travels back over 150 years, seven generations and three continents of Lara’s ancestry. It is the story of Irish Catholics leaving generations of rural hardship behind and ascending to a rigid middle class in England; of German immigrants escaping poverty and seeking to build a new life in 19th century London; and of proud Yorubas enslaved in Brazil, free in colonial Nigeria and hopeful in post-war London. Lara explores the lives of those who leave one country in search of a better life elsewhere, but who end up struggling to be accepted even as they lay the foundations for their children and future generations.
This second edition of Bernardine Evaristo’s first novel Lara, was rewritten and expanded by a third since its first publication in 1997.
‘Lara is a wonderful piece…extraordinarily beautiful… rich and evocative… fascinating in its span of time and continents. Like all the best writing, by the end I felt not only a little older, but a lot wiser’ – Andrea Levy.
‘A short, lyrical, vividly real novel-in-verse, dipping 150 years into the past to explore the family history of a British woman with a Nigerian father and English mother. It’s funny, touching, informative, passionate and very easy to read. If you’re tired of novels that all seem the same, this one’s a complete original’ – Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year).
‘Adventurous, compelling and utterly original’ – The Times on Bernardine Evaristo.
Photos from Lara
Sarah Hymas created this video collage of Bernardine Evaristo's family photographs going back over generations featuring the people who inspired her verse novel Lara.