Travel Thursdays #2 – Nigeria

Travel Thursdays

So I’m back for my second Travel Thursday! I’ve decided these won’t be a weekly thing just due to the fact that I’ve now decided that I’d prefer to list three books from each place and so obviously that will require a lot more reading. Currently, my plan is to have them every other week, although that may go down to monthly depending on how easy it is for me to get these books.

I’ve chosen Nigeria as my second location due to the fact that I’ve been reading a lot of Nigerian literature recently. I’d also never seen any photos of Nigeria and so thought it would be nice to research that to put images to the landscapes described in these fantastic novels.

If you’d like to take part too, then you can find more information here and please let me know as I’d love to see your posts!

Three Books I’ve Read from Nigeria:

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – I couldn’t not list one of Nnedi’s books and Lagoon seemed like the perfect choice given that it’s also set in Lagos. I adored this book and you can find my review of it here.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – I got this as an ARC and I just loved it. I chose it as my second choice as although there are lots of fantastic books, this one was set in a modern setting while most of the others ones I’ve read have had a more historical setting. You can find my review of it here.

Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie – I chose this as my final book because I enjoyed the alternating stories of modern and historical and also because Irenosen Okojie’s collection of short stories was shortlisted for the fantastic Jhalak Prize. You can read my review of it here.

Three Books I’d Like to Read

The Famished Road by Ben Okri – I’ve had this on my to-read list for quite a while and I’ve actually started it already but only a tiny way in. I really enjoyed Ben Okri’s writing style in Astonishing the Gods and I’ve heard such good things about this that I can’t wait to sit down and read it.

The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta – I’ve already read several of her books and I’ve adored every single one of them. Her writing is absolutely fantastic and I knew she definitely had to be one of the authors that I chose.

GraceLand by Chris Abani – This was a book I discovered while researching this post and it sounded absolutely fascinating and had some excellent reviews.

Three Photos of Nigeria

Lagos Island

Lagos Island and part of Lagos Harbour.

Jabi lake

Jabi Lake, Abuja

The bronze cast of his royal majesty. The Benin monarch

Statue of the Oba of Benin and his servants, Benin City

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.

Book Review – The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A Nigerian girl is allowed to finish her education because a diploma will enhance her bride price, but she then rebels against traditional marriage customs.

Review:

So, this is the second of Buchi Emecheta’s books that I’ve now read and this one was also fantastic. It’s set during the 50’s in Nigeria starting in Lagos then moving to Ibuza and looks at the customs surrounding marriage.

The book starts with the death of Aku-nna’s father due to an foot injury he sustained during the war. This means that his family can no longer afford to live in Lagos and so they all return to Ibuza to life with her uncle. Aku-nna and her brother Nna-nndo both continue their education at school as it is believed that the more educated Aku-nna is, the higher a bride price will be paid for her. However, while waiting for her to begin menstruating and thus be old enough for marriage, Aku-nna falls in love and is determined to marry the man she loves despite the opposition from her family.

I really enjoyed this book and watching Aku-nna as she grew and dealt with the issues in her life. It was a very interesting look at the cultural practices and beliefs of the people of Ibuza and the effects that had on the people of the area.

Again, I would definitely recommend this book to learn more about what was life in 50’s Nigeria for young women in Ibuza. Again, it had a very powerful ending and definitely left a strong impact on me.

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.