Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

An intimate and vulnerable debut novel

Hana Makhlouf
3 min readFeb 13, 2022
Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

Let me preface this by saying that this has to be one of the best novels I’ve ever read in my life. Throughout this review, I will be sharing some of my favourite excerpts from the book.


Open water is British-Ghanian writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut novel (emphasis on debut). It follows 2 main characters as they cross paths and become entangled in each other’s lives.

We follow the main characters as they share their experiences growing up as Black in London. ‘Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists…’ — all similarities that bring them together.

Their friendship grows and evolves, but with that comes challenges of opening up, dealing with their own trauma and making the choice of whether to continue or walk away.

“You know that to love is both to swim and to drown. You know to love is to be a whole, partial, a joint, a fracture, a heart, a bone. It is to bleed and heal. It is to be in the world, honest. It is to place someone next to your beating heart, in the absolute darkness of your inner, and trust they will hold you close. To love is to trust, to trust is to have faith. How…



Hana Makhlouf

Software engineer by day. Passionate about everything tech, reading and self-development👩🏽‍💻