RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewFrom the very first pages, there is something beguiling about At Night All Blood Is Black, a slim, delicate novel by the Senegalese-French writer David Diop ... This transgression against the dead — or the delusion of such — fills the story with a mythic affliction that recalls the old sailor’s in Samuel Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The narrative voice brims with innuendoes and habitual repetitions like \'I know, I understand\' and \'God’s truth,\' which imbue the character with an edgy eccentricity ... But this book is about more than a lone man’s spiritual burden. Diop realizes the full nature of war — that theater of macabre and violent drama — on the page. He takes his character into the depths of hell and lets him thrive there ... As violent and disturbing as these encounters are, they are rendered with such artistic grace that one derives a strange pleasure in reading about even the bloodiest of nights. The novel, though originally written in French, is grounded in the worldview of Senegal’s Wolof people, and the specificity and uniqueness of that culture’s language comes through even in Anna Moschovakis’s translation ... By the time we reach its shocking yet ultimately transcendent ending, the story has turned into something mystical, esoteric; it takes a cyclic shape ... More than a century after World War I, a great new African writer is asking these questions in a spare yet extraordinary novel about this bloody stain on human history.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewA keen-eyed writer, Beah employs expansive language to describe [the characters\'] conditions with an ecstatic flair ... Unlike many novels featuring large casts, Beah’s does not apportion its main characters into different chapters, instead interweaving their stories together in one, unified narrative. It’s a wise choice, in keeping with the overall tone of a story about adolescents held together by a cultivated consanguinity. Yet even Beah’s fluid prose cannot save the first hundred pages from feeling oversaturated with information and names, which he gives to even the most insignificant characters ... That tension is strong and well realized, if aided here and there by dei ex machina, too-convenient plot points that constantly bail Khoudi out of difficult situations while testing the limits of the reader’s suspension of disbelief ... Soon, however, her character becomes exaggerated beyond believability. If the men around her are evil, disrespectful caricatures, then she’s portrayed as so strong and able she borders on villainy...Even so, this hyperbole does not completely diminish Khoudi’s character, which is complex and deftly rendered. It’s in the closing chapters, where the novel zeros in on Khoudi’s search for a sense of self and the freedom to leave the margins for the mainstream, that the story comes alive. This strong, moving ending is a testament to Beah’s confidence as a writer and a remarkable storyteller.