River Spirit

River Spirit

N/A March 2023 Hardback 320pp

About the Book

1880s Sudan. When Akuany and her brother are orphaned in a village raid, they are taken in by Yaseen, a young merchant. Yaseen’s vow to care for them will tether him to Akuany throughout their lives. As revolution begins to brew, led by the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Sudan begins to prise itself from Ottoman rule, and everyone must choose a side.

Yaseen feels beholden to stand against this false Mahdi, a decision that threatens to splinter his family. Meanwhile, Akuany moves through her young adulthood and across the country alone, sold and traded from house to house, with only Yaseen as her intermittent lifeline. Their struggle will mirror the increasingly bloody struggle for Sudan itself: for freedom, safety and the possibility of love.

River Spirit is the unforgettable story of a people who, against the odds and for a brief time, gained independence from foreign rule. This is a powerful tale of corruption and unshakeable devotion – to a cause, to one’s faith and to the people who become family.

About the Author

Leila Aboulela is an award-winning novelist whose work has received critical recognition for its distinctive exploration of identity, migration and Islamic spirituality. Her novels have been translated into fifteen languages and include Bird Summons, Minaret, The Translator (a New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year), The Kindness of Enemies and Lyrics Alley (Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards). Aboulela was the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing and her short story collection, Elsewhere, Home won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award. Aboulela grew up in Sudan and in her mid-twenties moved to Scotland where she now resides.

→ Author Website


'Dazzling … A love story that endures.'
New York Times

‘Kaleidoscopic and heartfelt.’
Nadifa Mohamed

'Captivating … Through a compelling chorus of voices … Aboulela unspools the fraught story of Sudan, as freedom and faith do battle.'
Daily Mail

‘A blazing historical epic of war, love, and revolution ... River Spirit is a magnificent novel about the price of unwavering devotion and the inexhaustible pursuit for freedom.'
LA Review of Books

‘A novel of extraordinary sympathy and insight … a wonderful achievement.’
Abdulrazak Gurnah, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

‘An evocative and delicately composed historical novel of Sudan.'
Literary Hub

' River Spirit had me gripped from the first page. This is real history, imagined in splendid detail – a story of ordinary people caught in extraordinary times. River Spirit is a triumph of storytelling.’
Aminatta Forna

‘Leila Aboulela holds a unique place in Scottish literature … Her narratives glow with a rare beauty, a shining sensual awareness of the joy of life.’
The Scotsman

‘Zamzam and Yaseen’s love story is moving and gripping, sweeping the reader along hoping that they will end up together against the odds. Highly recommended.’
Library Journal


A New York Times Historical Book of the Year 2023

HWA Crown Awards 2023 (Shortlisted)

The Jhalak Prize 2024 (Longlisted)
Prize Website