Rating 5 stars
Abi Daré’s first novel is set in Nigeria and views that country’s patriarchal society through the eyes of a teenage girl who wants something better for herself. It’s a sassy, political, heartwarming story that gripped me with its heart stopping moments and its message of hope. Continue reading
Rating 4 stars
What do you do when your sister keeps killing her boyfriends? You become her Cleaner. This is the situation Korede finds herself in when her sister Ayoola kills three of her boyfriends on the trot. Continue reading
Rating: 3 stars
This letter written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to her friend doesn’t say anything new. It doesn’t, as the blurb on the back states, start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today. That conversation is ongoing. Women are having it every day. The book is part of that conversation, though, perhaps in a way Adichie didn’t intend and the publishers didn’t recognise. Continue reading
I slowed down my reading during January, trying to get more depth of engagement with what I read, relishing it more. This includes books of less than 150 pages that I would typically zip through. Recently I read three short books from Penguin, all of them full of big ideas. It took longer than I expected, and I found strong links between the three, so I’m reviewing them together.
Rating: 4 stars
Stay With Me is Ayobami Adebayo’s first novel. It was shortlisted for the 2017 Women’s Prize for Fiction. I borrowed it from my local library knowing little about it other than that it is set in Nigeria and its subject matter is full of sadness.
Yejide and Akin marry for love. For each of them, the other is all the person they need. The Yoruba are a polygamous society, but Akin is clear that he wants no wife other than Yejide. Yejide is the daughter of an additional wife, her mother died giving birth, and Yejide has no interest in being one of many. They are well suited and happy together, until Yejide fails to become pregnant and Akin’s family start to put pressure on him to marry again. Continue reading
Rating: 5 stars
Henning Mankell’s Wallander series is one of my favourite discoveries of recent years. We stumbled upon the Swedish film adaptations late one night (the ones starring Krister Henriksson, not Rolf Lassgård) and I sought out the books. It was love at first read. I love crime and detective fiction anyway, but this was different to what I was familiar with. Wallander was more human, more vulnerable, more honestly ridiculous than most other middle aged, emotionally dysfunctional male detectives that populate the genre. He was those things as well, but he reflected on his inadequacies and used his job as a distraction and a proof that he wasn’t all bad. He also reflected on the nature of the crimes he investigated, not willing to pass them off as the inevitable actions of bad people, but recognising changes in society as an underlying cause. Wallander isn’t a hard boiled cop, he’s a cop with a conscience. The life Mankell built for him outside work was as richly described as his professional one, making him more real. I cared about him. For anyone who hasn’t read the series, I won’t give away the ending, but I will admit that I cried.
I’ve read other books by Mankell, too. I loved Italian Shoes and The Return of the Dancing Master. The Man from Beijing wasn’t my favourite, but it was readable. Mankell also had a passion for Africa and spent a lot of time there, developing a theatre company in Mozambique. He was politically active and supported social justice. He wrote a few novels based on his experiences in Africa, and when I went to change my books at the library recently, I decided to give one a try. I picked up The Shadow Girls, which is about refugees and immigration. Continue reading
Rating: 5 stars
Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness challenge
‘You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?’ Aunty Ifeka said. ‘Your life belongs to you and you alone, soso gi.’
Aunty Ifeka says this to her niece Olanna about her boyfriend, halfway through the book. She could easily have been saying it about Nigeria.
I didn’t know what to expect from Half of a Yellow Sun. I came to it completely blind, based on people talking about how good Adichie is as a writer, how she is influenced by Achebe. I read nothing about what the book is about. All I knew was that Adachie is Nigerian and this book was about Nigeria in the 1960s. Continue reading
Rating: 3 stars
Initially, this was difficult to get into. An alien culture to me, a different way of thinking, traditions and social norms that differ greatly from my own. I couldn’t get a fix on the characters, felt at a remove from them, an observer uninvolved in their lives. Continue reading