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Book review - Maud Martha

It’s remarkable that Gwendolyn Brooks’s only novel,  Maud Martha  (1953),   has not been published in Britain until now. Brooks was an acclaimed poet and the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for  Annie Allen . In her introduction to this welcome, if overdue, Faber edition, Margo Jefferson suggests Brooks’s debut “sank beneath the weighty canonical force of  first novels by two of Brooks’s male Black peers”. She’s referring to Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin.  Maud Martha  is a quieter, more reflective work than  Invisible Man  and  Go Tell it to the Mountain , but nevertheless, it’s a perceptive, eloquent study of life for an ordinary, working-class black woman living in Chicago during  the 1930s and 40s. Maud Martha  is presented as a series of vignettes written in third-person omniscient narration. Brooks’s poetic sensibility is evident from the outset and her narrator’s warm, idiosyncratic voice is one of the book’s many charms. She opens with Maud Martha’s childhoo