Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Oshun's Gold

by Simone Brightstein

In real life, beauty is mostly* divorced from morality. But this is not the case in Oshun's Gold, where the good are all beautiful, and bad things don't happen to gorgeous people.

The main characters are well-off, attractive people who work in advertising and the beauty industry. The Hot Box advertising agency has won a contract with Glissando Beauté to promote a new product. They travel to West Africa, to the home of the Yoruba people, to learn more about it. Only Oshun, goddess of love and abundance, takes a particular interest in it and decides she wants a piece of the action.

Angel Zimmerman and Brent Lockwood, co-owners of The Hot Box, both have complicated love lives. This novel tracks their affairs of the heart as they go about introducing a revolutionary new cosmetic product to the world. Meanwhile Oshun, and her fellow deities Chango, Eleggua and Oya, involve themselves in human matters and get a taste of the world of advertising and image making.

Oshun's Gold presents an idealised view of the cosmetics industry, one without chemicals, dud products, problems, or lies. The main characters are all attractive, successful, and talented; yet they seem to spend a lot of time lounging about, drinking to excess and bed hopping. It's the kind of view of the industry that advertisers would have us believe in. Nobody argues too much, and the main occupational hazard is getting squashed by stampeding paparazzi.

Simone Brightstein doesn't seem to know how to plot for suspense, because the whole novel plods along without any sense of urgency. Because of this, I can't imagine that the majority of readers will get to the end. It seems as though she likes her characters too much to allow anything too bad to happen to them, and when anything untoward does happen it gets fixed quickly. If you do press on you will find a lot of scenes that seem to have no bearing on the main plot: people eating, celebrating, dressing, and just generally living. But what gradually becomes apparent is that this, the way these people live, is the main story, no matter how dull their lives may be.

The book is full of information about the Orisha and their legends. Anecdotes about the gods are sometimes interesting, but often it comes across as a forced and somewhat preachy attempt to educate white people. Entire chapters are a lesson in Yoruban culture, but that doesn't make for a page-turning novel.

The main saving graces of Oshun's Gold are the intimate scenes, which are plentiful and competently executed. It's racy, although for all the passion there's a curious lack of jealousy amongst the human characters.

All of the characters are image-conscious, and the author frequently describes their clothing in terms that could easily have come out of the pages of a fashion magazine. It's a world where looks equal virtue, and nowhere is this more clear than in the scene that introduces Hitler's Heroes. This involves a motorcycle gang of greasy, ugly racists, hideous inside and out. It's a chapter of appallingly two-dimensional stereotypes and utter predictability, and it marks the low point of the whole novel.

Oshun's Gold lacks dramatic tension. It doesn't build up to a point of crisis. Too little danger, too few twists, and main characters who are too insipid to care about don't make for a riveting read. So in spite of a colourful setting and a premise with exciting possibilities, this novel is more Grey than Gold.

*Not counting people who are disfigured by their vices.

Book Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Books


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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson