Love Me by Gemma Weekes [Book Review]

love me by gemma weekes


Love Me is the debut novel by London based singer/poet Gemma Weekes. It chronicles the loves and battles of 20- something Eden Jean-Baptiste. Her life is marred by the twin torments of her obsession with the handsome, emotionally distant Zed and being abandoned at 11 years old by her capricious, self-centred mother Marie. Eden lives with her long-suffering church going father. His burgeoning love affair with Ms Chanderpaul is only met with disdain by our heroine.

Frustrated with London living and feeling betrayed by Zed’s inchoate relationship with one of her work colleagues, Eden borrows money from her best friend and flees to New York to spend time with her spaced out Aunt K thinking she ‘s leaving her heartache behind. But she’s sorely mistaken. As the book progresses we discover how inextricably linked Eden, Zed and those closest to them are by the selfish decisions of Marie and the tragic consequences.

I was intrigued when I read the blurb for Love Me, in particular a glowing comment made by Diran Adebayo. Nevertheless, unlike Diran’s Some kind of Black Weekes first novel is not one of the most accomplished debuts I’ve read in recent years, despite the author’s obvious, if unpolished, talent. Weekes clearly has a love for language but she indulges too much, especially at the start of the novel, in an overzealous use of similes and metaphors – something I feel her editor should have tidied up. Dialogue is often clunky and lacking in realism in an attempt to explain too much, too soon. Weekes leans towards some unnecessary descriptive elements particularly in regards to the complexion of the characters.

With the exception of the dark and lovely Zed, Weekes spends a lot of time extolling the aesthetic virtue of those of a lighter hue (or blonde in the case of Zed’s girlfriend, Max). This would be understandable if the author wanted to explore some of the social complexities surrounding skin tone within certain communities. Bar one or two notable exceptions, this is not the case. I suspect this fixation with complexion reflects some of the issues, perhaps the author herself might have about race.

The characterisation is a mixed bag. There are one too many stereotypes for comfort; as if some demographic boxes needed to be ticked. Aunt K and her pseudo-Afrocentricity, spouting irritating platitudes that would do any American talk show host proud. Spanish, Eden’s would-be revolutionary boyfriend, whose angry rhetoric about the state of African-Americans is a response to his confusion over his mixed-heritage. There’s Brandy/Brandon, cross-dressing lodger of Aunt K. Weekes puts political correctness into overdrive stressing that Brandon is straight and that when he’s in a dress, he must be referred to as ‘she’. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, but there’s more to being a ‘she’ than just wearing high-heels and skirts. The list goes on.

However, when Weekes does get the characterisation and dynamic of relationships right, she’s on fire. As the novel gets into its stride there are real flashes of inspiration. Zed is splendidly complex. Sometimes he comes over as callous and arrogant; other times the reader can sympathise with his frustration as Eden seeks from him something he doesn’t appear to be able to give her. At times I was both annoyed with Eden and feeling desperately sorry for her.

There’s much of the book that captures the hopelessness of infatuation; the way an obsession can squeeze the health and joy out of a friendship… that, often, our flights of fancy are less to do with the object of our affection and more to do with us projecting insecurities and desire for acceptance onto that person.

When Weekes exercises a more subtle approach to her writing – trusting the natural poet within her, instead of being too self-aware -she comes up with some, excuse the pun, gems. On assessing one of his live rap performances Zed opines…

‘…The only thing they (the crowd) love is fashion and fashion’s a painted whore who…loves nobody but her damned self…’


‘…Your posture is horrible, like you’re afraid if you took it up a notch and were sexy…that you actually wouldn’t be able to compete with other women…’

This short statement by Brandy is the most accurate summation of insecurity over body image, I’ve read.

Another highlight for me were the many sly references to Kate Bush lyrics, I felt it added a connoisseur’s flair to Love Me.

Just when my hopes for the novel were restored they were squarely dashed to the ground by the disappointingly clichéd, unrealistic ending. What was developing into a serious, pathos-driven discourse about the self-destructive ways we deal with loss and rejection descends into a middle-of-the-road love story.

The characters – Eden in particular – deserved better than such a contrived resolution. Whereas an ambiguous ending can be the most realistic and satisfying for a reader even if it’s not ‘happy-ever-after’. I also didn’t appreciate what I perceived as Weekes ‘moral’ to the tale, something along the lines of ‘It’s OK to go with the feeling, even if it hurts others unnecessarily, because, hey, you’ve gotta do for you’. Yeah, right.

I have no doubt that, if she continues to make forays into writing prose, Miss Weekes has the acumen to produce something truly special, maybe 3 or 4 books into her career. There’s definitely room for her to grow with her next offering. It would be great if future projects see the seeds of promise shown in Love Me come to fruition even though this debut does not fully showcase Weekes’ potential.

Gemma Weekes’ debut novel, Love Me, is out now; published in paperback by Chatto & Windus, £12.99
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