Bina: A Novel In Warnings – Anakana Schofield

Chosen by Jo

A disillusioned woman in her 70s writes on the back of envelopes about her life, dedicating her story to all the women who have had enough.

⫸ “Anakana Schofield was quoted as saying literature does not exist only to provide pleasure. It should also ‘challenge and perturb us.’

“Both sentiments would be accurate of how the Free-Rangers felt about this novel. We all admitted to struggling through the initial pages, wondering where the repetitive, distracted and sometimes vague mental wanderings were going. But at some point things clicked into place and the challenge of reading Bina became more a pleasure.

“Bina is a character who featured in Schofield’s debut Malarkey as an old woman attacking a plane with a hammer during a protest. She had such presence Schofield decided to give her her own platform.

My name is Bina and I’m a very busy woman. That’s Bye-na, not Beena. I don’t know who Beena is but I expect she’s having a happy life. I don’t know who you are, or the state of your life. But if you’ve come all this way here to listen to me, your life will undoubtedly get worse. I’m here to warn you …”

“As she scribbles poetic warnings on the back of till receipts and used envelopes, Bina tackles big topics such as grief, frustration, anger, friendship and womanhood. It will take time to work everything out, though. Who exactly is Eddie; why are activists picketing outside her home; why is her back yard full of medical waste; why are the police investigating her over the death of her best friend Philomena.”

“You could say the novel is a kind of confessional for Bina, though she does admit: “if you write out everything you think they’ll think it’s everything you did, rather than everything you thought about doing.”

⫸ “Bina’s musings were frustrating. However, that confusion kept me guessing and therefore invested in the story. Plus there was a great sense of satisfaction once I’d worked out her meaning or connected the plot dots. After the final page there were still questions left unanswered, which can sometimes be disappointing, but it does also lead to further pondering which is always a sign to me that I’ve read something thought provoking and worthwhile.” – Jo

⫸ “Bina is a strong, outspoken woman who has lived life and taken action where she felt necessary. I liked her a lot. Though it took me a while to get to know her as her opinions and warnings are sometimes vague, and rambling. But she is a 74 year old woman so I’ll forgive her that. Bina is a quick book to read but attention to detail is required for maximum enjoyment. I would recommend it to those who enjoy something outside of the box.” – Rachel

⫸ “I initially struggled with Bina as I enjoy a more plot driven storyline. However, the structure of the novel was unique and intrigued me which gave me the motivation to press on. I appreciated the combination of wittiness and sadness, which helped build a more complete picture of Bina. I would recommend this novel for its thought-provoking qualities, but word of warning, you will be left pondering it for days after you have finished.” – Jodie

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Published 2019
Knopf Canada
336 pages

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