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Forest Gate: A Novel

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  185 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Akinti's raw and riveting debut novel begins with Ashvin, an angry teenage Somali refugee, and his best friend, James, on opposite rooftops in the slums of East London preparing to hang themselves in a suicide pact. Ashvin leaps, unable to bear the reality of his own life—his activist parents murdered in Somalia; his brutal rape at the hands of Ethiopian soldiers; the ...more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Free Press (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Nov 15, 2016 Miguel rated it it was amazing
Forest Gate is a painful, poignant, and brilliant novel. It comes as close to perfect as any novel I've ever read. Akinti pulls no punches in a visceral and vivid display of life in both London's Forest Gate community and a war-torn Somalia. Centering around representatives from those two walks of life, James Morrison and Armenia, and their budding relationship in the face of the tragic suicide attempt by James and Armenia's brother, Ashvin, which Ashvin does not survive. The book is an ...more
Jul 05, 2010 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: benicia, 2010
I'm not sure of how or why I came upon this book, I think it was a grab-in-passing from the public library's browse shelf. I'm glad that this book crossed my path, it is brutal and beautiful and engaging.
May 30, 2012 Adam rated it liked it
one of my book culbs are reading this book this kind of book is new to me so to me it was a lil slow i almost stop reading it im happy i read it because it was a good book hrad to read at time with the rape and things like that over all a good book
Jun 07, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it
One morning during her early morning class, young Meina is unexpectedly removed and brought to speak with two policemen who inform her that her brother Ashvin is dead. Ashvin and his best friend James had recently put a suicide pact into motion, both boys hanging themselves from two opposite tower roofs. It is only Ashvin who succeeds in ending his life, leaving James behind full of feelings of guilt and irreparable despair. When Meina discovers that the two boys acted in conjunction, she seeks ...more
Feb 02, 2010 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This debut novel by the East End-raised son of Nigerian immigrants to England has a pretty clear point of view. And that view is that racism permeates British culture, fashionable multiculturalism is an illusion, and pretty much all black men are locked in a lifelong struggle to break free of the negative expectations they see in the mirror. Personally, I found the expression of these themes a bit on the strident side and sometimes rather clumsily articulated, but then again, as a comfortably ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 27, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it liked it
In the old council flats of London, a tragic event ripples through gang and racial warfare. James, a local black British teen from a *successful*crack-dealing family, and his best friend, Ashvin, a poet-loving Somali refugee, jump off a towering building, nooses around their necks, in a suicide pact. Ashvin dies and James survives. Ashvin's sister, Armeina (Meina), hooks up with James in shared grief to forge a tentative but tender friendship. This is their story.

There is a lot of potential in t
Dec 26, 2013 Libraryscat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, poverty, arc, race
It was interesting that I received Forest Gate shortly after I The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Durrow. It, too, deals with racial issues, but from a very different perspective. I could not have planned my reading any better and I would like to thank Simon & Schuster Free Press for the opportunity to read and review this first novel by Peter Akinti. [return][return]For me, this book was an incredible work of genius. I read the book very quickly and realized only on the very last page that ...more
Forest Gate is Peter Akita's debut novel. I hadn't ever heard of him before until I came across his absolute gem of a debut in the library yesterday.

I'm going to start off by saying, its been a hell of a long time since I've felt the way I feel about this fantastic book. Sure, I've read mostly good books lately but this is not just a good book. The word good does not do it justice by half. I almost loved it as much as I loved an earlier book of the year by anothet author 'Shantaram'.

So what's it
Tyler Stoffel
Jun 21, 2012 Tyler Stoffel rated it really liked it
Forest Gate told a very dark tale of multiple rapes, murder and suicide, but with such detailed backstory that I fully understood the motivations behind the actions, as terrible as they were. Akinti goes as far as making the reader believe the rape of the Ethiopaian boy Namal is justified by Ashvin's own rape years earlier. All throughout, the reader really feels the pain of the characters.

All of the main characters carry such heavy loads of their dark lives. All are young, black and completely
Jasmine Star
Nov 16, 2011 Jasmine Star rated it it was amazing
From the moment I started reading this book I was entranced by the truthful, raw, elegant, and articulate way of writing. The author makes you want to keep reading, want to keep imagining... There were so many truths about the state of our societies - the way men in particular are forced to put on a harsh facade and "play the game" even if they abhor it.

The stories of Somalia were painful, but so beautiful. The stories of the family made me feel like I was looking at a picture of a beautiful fl
Jan 18, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it
This is a unflinching look at life in the ghettos of East London. Two boy's are so completely without hope that they decide to attempt suicide together. One lives, One dies. The story then follow the struggles of the boy who lived as well as the sister of the boy who died. I think at times we who have not struggled with such overwhelming violence and despair, don't understand people's inability to rise above their circumstances. In this book we see the indestructible web of cultural and family ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Natoya rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Funny thing I had gotten it free as an advanced reader copy - so it sat around my house for about 2 years as I read the books I purchased. The synopsis didn't grab me at first but when I finally read the novel, I was amazed at all of it. The writing is amazing; the narrative is gritty, honest, and emotional; and the plot is hopeful and hopeless (as in you hope for better for the characters but you know a happy ending would be unrealistic). The novel deals with the experiences ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Brian rated it it was ok
Not really sure what to say. The cover blurb promised angry and I didn't really get angry, which was in a way a disappointment since I was thinking I'd get something along the lines of Le The Au Harem D'Archi Ahmed. There are some nice metaphors along the way "chewing on her lie" and so on, but while it reminds me a little of Camus' The Stranger, there's something more arbitrary about this one, and the big shocking event toward the end could have used some more buildup since I felt I hadn't been ...more
And here I thought the low-ish rating was just for the uncomfortable rape scenes. Turns out the thing just fizzles out.

Starts out very promising. A kind of brutal look at black poverty in the UK.

However, what kind of ruins any artistic mystery here with the vague ending is an essay that acts as the final chapter, with the author explaining everything about the book and his life. Kind of ruined it for me.

The ending was a letdown as it is, but if you're going to do the sudden ending thing where
Clockstein Lockstein
Apr 13, 2010 Clockstein Lockstein rated it really liked it
Forest Gate by Peter Akinti is a shattering look at life as a Somali refugee in London. James and Meina struggle to find a new life after the suicide of her brother, his best friend. The young men had made a pact, but when James' rope didn't snap his neck, he realized that life was worth fighting for, and he survived. The two recreate the days leading up to the tragedy as they slowly fall in love. Meina is a strong young woman who has already been "married" six times by her greedy aunt before ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it
I got the book at BAM on one of the discount shelves. Because this is a book I would not likely have noticed otherwise, I consider it a good find. There were a few inconsistencies in the book which troubled me a little. Also, Meina and James seemed old beyond their years but maybe that is what happens when you grow up in such a harsh and despairing world? The story, filled with rape, violence, and harassment by gangs, soldiers and police is deep and disturbing with references to actual racial ...more
May 29, 2010 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Raw and sad this debut novel delivers on its promise of a view into modern London's East End. Blacks in England tend to be Caribbean or African and it is those influences that they've brought with them. I find this to be in contrast with African Americans who were brought here forcibly and whose sensibilities are somewhat different.

Akinti takes a careful and measured look at the consequences of violence and racism on individuals and groups. His characters are worth knowing and the situations he
Sep 28, 2016 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really unique

An excellent look into a challenging world -- it helps shed light on characters and social struggles with which I'm not familiar. Extremely thought-provoking and moving.
Nicola Waldron
Feb 08, 2016 Nicola Waldron rated it really liked it
A book to change lives--how we view the world, and how we might look out on it, and each other, in the future. Distressing and brilliant, an examination of the darkest of undersides--London and beyond. Forest Gate: a place I once lived and couldn't wait to escape, but I really had no idea...
This one will challenge you at the very core: a fine example of Kafka's 'axe to smash the frozen sea within us'....a very rocky but absolutely worthwhile path to compassion.
Apr 15, 2012 Nick rated it it was ok
The Forest Gate starts out strong, then runs aground in a haze of improbabilities. Two boys, one a Somali refugee and the other a black Briton attempt suicide in the harrowing, drug-infested projects the inhabit. The Briton survives and goes on to romance the sister of his dead Somali friend. Somalia is evoked in all its brutality, and the projects and drug-dealing brothers of the Briton work well. A well-meaning white Briton does less, but least of all is the rosy ending in a foreign land.
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
this book did an amazing job of conveying the heart of the black male project/council flat experience. one of the most poignant moments in the book is when the main character got into a chest-puffing match with another man on the tube. it was heartbreaking to think that men have to resort to violence just to combat this idea of being thought of as a punk. there is a lot of violence and brutality in the book, but a tenderness that made me misty-eyed as well.
Dec 01, 2011 Angela rated it liked it
This was one beautifully written book. I did not give it more stars because it was so depressing. I thought that it would turn around but it wasn't. I loved the writing style of the author. Suicide and the atrocities committed by people on the African continent with the support of outsiders make the book depressing. However, the love that develops between the sister and the one who didn't die makes it worthwhile in the end.
Sep 29, 2010 VJ rated it it was amazing
I am learning about the clash between Ethiopians, Somalis, and Eritreans through this harrowing story of siblings who, after the murder of their parents, are moved to London where Ashvin commits suicide and Meina takes up with the young man who tried to kill himself along with her brother. Very violent and sexually explicit.
Te Yang
Nov 05, 2013 Te Yang rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking...Finished the book in 1 and a half days with mixed emotions still lingering which ceases my need to read my next book in line. I just can't get over the harsh third-world experience the characters are in. Yet, it gives me a sense of relief and satisfaction through out their growth and formation as the story goes on. A page turner, powerful, a must read...
Apr 06, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it
There aren't enough books about the urban poor in the global North, the violence and illness and struggles they go through. The fact that this book combines the trauma of growing up poor among gangs in a wealthy city with the trauma of growing up relatively wealthy in a poor country surrounded by thugs and violence makes it more interesting. Good book!
Beata Bowen
Mar 25, 2013 Beata Bowen rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2013
A very sad tale about London's kids of African descent. I found this book very depressing. Did learn that the projects are called "estates" in England, which sounds very posh, but did little to abide the depressing nature of this story.
Doug Keel
Jan 13, 2013 Doug Keel rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a great eye-opener as to another side of London and the immigrant story that many may not be aware of. Akinti's telling of two African refugees/immigrants from a war-torn region is haunting and brutal, but speaks many truths.
Nathan Huff
Apr 28, 2011 Nathan Huff rated it it was amazing
We should keep an eye on Peter. He's not just an extraordinary literary voice. He's also a messenger. He delivers a very disturbing, violent, and angry message with his debut. I can't help but think that he has a lot more to tell us.
Aug 20, 2011 Carroll rated it really liked it
Shelves: gog-books, fiction
I didn't even realize there was a "Black" problem in the UK until I heard about the riots on the news recently. This fiction was graphic but did not ruin my sensibilities. Life in the "hood" and love between two innocents were realistically told. I would recommend it.
Jul 22, 2010 Tuck rated it liked it
its amazing how wars, racism, fanaticism, poverty, and imperialism all manifest in folks lives in almost the exact same ways, no matter who or where those people are. Brules in south Dakota or Somalis in London. it aint pretty. this is a great 1st novel.
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Peter Akinti was a seventies child, born of Nigerian ancestry, in London. He read Law at a London University. He has written for the Guardian, and worked for four years at HM Treasury Chambers before founding and editing Untold Magazine for five years. Untold was the first independent British magazine for black men and had a wealth of gifted contributors from all over the diaspora. Peter spent ...more
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