Book Review – Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A poignant story of a resourceful Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination of women and countless setbacks to achieve an independent life for herself and her children.

Review:

This was the final of the three Buchi Emecheta books I took out from the library which I saved until last due to the fact that this one was set in 1960’s London rather than in Nigeria. This focuses on the story of Adah, a young woman who fulfils her dream of moving to London only to discover that there, due to the colour of her skin, she is regarded as a second-class citizen. She works hard at a library and raising her five children while her husband is lazy and relies on her for her income. While in the hospital after giving birth, he barely even visits and is not supportive of her dreams to become a novelist.

This tale, focusing on a Nigerian immigrant, is actually based on the life of the author herself and it includes discussing the writing of her first novel, The Bride Price, and of the events that eventually led to her leaving her husband. It was particularly powerful due to the fact I knew it was all based on a true story and it was a very interesting insight into the life of a Nigerian immigrant in London and the struggles associated with that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Adah’s journey and despite knowing how things turned out, due to it being autobiographical, I still really enjoyed it all and loved the ending.

Buchi Emecheta was a remarkable woman and an excellent writer and I would definitely recommend her novels. If I had to pick just one, it would definitely be this one but I find it hard to imagine that after reading this, readers wouldn’t be interested in reading more of her work.

Another thing to recommend this novel is the fact that it also fits perfectly for challenge number 4 of BookRiot’s Read Harder challenge – as it was both written by an immigrant, focusing on the story of an immigrant.

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Book Review – Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

‘There are things even love can’t do… If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love…’

Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything – arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, dances with prophets, appeals to God. But when her in-laws insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair.

Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 80s Nigeria, Stay With Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayobami Adebayo weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.

Review:

This is another book I received as an eARC as I thought it would an interesting book to read for the final Book Riot Challenge – “Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.”. I was drawn to it by the cover and because I’ve been reading a lot of Nigerian literature recently and wanted to read some more.

I really enjoyed this book, although it’s going to be hard to write a review without spoilers due to the nature of it as it follows Yejide and her struggles with her husband as they try their best to conceive a child. All the characters are really well written and very realistic in their actions. You both like and dislike characters and they’re all very much painted as neither good nor bad, but simply human. The POV alternates between Yejide and her husband, Akin, and so seeing the story from both sides is particularly interesting. The story also jumps around in the timeline from their current struggles, to their courtship in the past and then to over 10 years after the main events of the book. I really enjoyed the story and loved how it ended – especially as the writing was just so lovely to read.

I would definitely recommend this book to those wishing to diversify their reading more, it’s an excellent story focusing on the everyday lives of an ordinary couple and their struggles.

Book Review – Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie

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I picked this book up from the library both for #DiverseAThon and because it seemed like a perfect choice for task number 2 of the Read Harder Challenge – “Read a debut novel”. I didn’t know much about it before I started, but the cover really appealed to me and the blurb sounded interesting.

The book focuses mainly on two characters. Joy is a young woman in modern day London, coping with the death of her mother and has received a strange inheritance of a brass head and the diary of her grandfather. Adesua is a young woman from a village in the Benin Empire (now Nigeria) and has just been chosen as the latest wife of the King. She is given a gift of a brass head by him and has to deal with the jealousy of the other wives. The book alternates between the two of them, along with a couple of chapters focusing on Queenie, Joy’s mother, and then also starts sharing entries from the diary. The book is a journey, focusing on Joy discovering more about the history of her family and all the characters are linked together by the brass head.

The writing in this book is an absolute delight to read, the descriptions and choice of language is wonderful and made you want to read slowly and savour it. My favourite character was Adesua and I would keep reading to get back to her chapters. I found it quite slow to start as at the beginning, I was not the biggest fan of Joy but I grew to like her more as the book went on and by the end I was hooked. All the characters are really well developed, including all the side characters like the wonderful Mrs Harris, Joy’s neighbour, and the various settings were fantastic. I really enjoyed reading about Benin and plan to read some non-fiction to learn more about the empire.

This is a book I would definitely recommend, particularly to those readers who enjoy magical realism.

Book Review -Tumbling by Caela Carter

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I picked this as the book for the first challenge of Book Riot’s read harder challenge “Read a book about Sports”. This was the category that put me off the challenge most, as I’m not a huge fan of sports and the idea of reading a novel about it put me off. But, I figured that was the whole point of the challenge! I used to do some gymnastics when I was younger and so decided that I’d pick a book focusing on that so at least it would be something I had some familiarity with.

This book focuses on the stories of five different Olympic hopefuls during the two days of the US Olympic Gymnastics trials as they all hope to be one of the five girls selected out of 12 contenders. Each girl has her own struggle – Grace’s whole life revolves around Gymnastics and she’s determined to be the best no matter what, Leigh loves gymnastics but is afraid that she is too big, Camille qualified for the previous Olympics but that dream was shattered due to a car accident and so she’s now hoping to make her comeback, Wilhemina was just a few days too young last time to compete and so she’s desperate to make it in this year and Monica is new and young and feels like she doesn’t belong.

Over the two days, the girls compete in their events while revealing more of their dreams and motivations. The focus is a lot less on the sport, and more on the girls themselves which is part of the reason I enjoyed it so much. I enjoyed watching each of them deal with their own personal struggles and the constant doubting on whether they were good enough. There was a lot of focus on their relationships – both with each other and with those in the “outside world” as they never knew if they could trust their fellow gymnasts or not. I was rooting for all five of them to make it, even though I knew some of them would fail. The ending in particular was excellent and I really enjoyed seeing who made it into the team and who didn’t, along with their reactions to that.

Despite thinking this was going to be the worst book of the challenge, I ended up really enjoying this and would definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary YA. It seems really well researched and has a useful glossary at the back of gymnastics terms for those that are unfamiliar with the sport.