Thursday, 24 April 2014

These are a few of my favourite things.....

This year my reading has progressed at a good pace. Not very much how I want it to progress, but quite satisfactory.

I finished E.C. Osondu's 'Voice of America', Sefi Atta's 'Everything Good Will Come', Taiye Selasi's 'Ghana Must Go, reread, 'Half of a Yellow Sun and now I am currently reading 'Fine Boys' by Eghosa Imasuen.

E.C. Osondu's Voice of America is a collection of short stories. Stories about immigrants, children in refugee camps, live executions, stints at prison cells. I found it a very good and informative read, like going back in time to a period I've never lived; the 1970s and so on.

It felt good to read a wide range of stories touching on different issues and finding out things I never knew about before further made me confident about the importance of reading as a way of discovering many things and travelling to different places, back and forth, all in one sitting.


Moving from 'Voice of America' to 'Everything Good Will Come', seemed like a very perfect transition. When I first heard about the book, the person who I heard about it from proclaimed that she didn't like the book and would not recommend it, but I decided I'd rather read the book and make my own conclusion.

Everything Good Will Come is a powerful feminist book and I love that I got to live in the 70s again for a quite a good part of the book. The book is set in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s Post-civil war Lagos. It is a coming of age story. A story about freedom and the path to attaining it. It states real hard truths about the stereotypical role of women in the society and also challenges it. Enitan is a fierce character who found her voice and freedom at the end of the book.

For some odd reason I was singing and dancing to Olamide's 'Eleda mi' at the end of the book. Enitan's father is released from detention and on her way to her long time friend's home to give her the good news, she stops in traffic in a sudden burst of excitement mixed with the sweet joy of freedom, to dance, much to the amazement of passers-by.

"My hands went up. I wriggled lower, and sang again......"

"..... I danced the palongo. fearing nothing for my sanity, or common sense. I added a few foreign steps to disorientate the discontented so-and-so: flamenco, can-can, Irish dancing from side to side. Nothing could take my joy away from me. The sun sent her blessings. My sweat baptised me."

Taiye Selasi's 'Ghana Must Go' is a book I just happened to 'stumble upon' and I'm glad it exists in my collection of books. It is a lovely book, by a lovely writer. Taiye Selasi is my new female writer crush.. Chimmy no go vex

One look at the eye-catching cover, the beautiful print and the reading the blurb, I couldn't wait to dig in.

The writing is good and the plot is endearing. When I first started reading the book I was quite distracted by the way events unravelled slowly and the way everything was described so lyrically you would feel sucked into the space in time and then completely forget what part of the book you are.

I found myself going back a few pages, a few times and trying to make sure the points connected and I was still in the story. This made reading the book quite hard in the beginning and the frequent flashbacks did not help. But as I moved on I started to actually enjoy the book thoroughly and smiled to myself a lot while reading it.

I discovered that Taiye Selasi has a unique style of writing which makes her work so special. So it didn't come as a shock to me when recently I came across this article that reveals that her work is actually inspired in many ways by music, hence the lyrical nature of her prose.

"....two bubbles in water that now, her lips parted, run in down her throat, where they find, being water, more water within her, her belly, below that, her thighs, dripping wet --the once-white satin nightdress soaked, wet from the inside, and outside, a second skin, now brown with sweat --and, becoming a tide, turn, return up the middle, thighs, belly, heart, higher, then burst through her chest."

"The sob is so loud that it rouses her fully"

The book is divided into three parts- 'Gone', 'Going', and 'Go', and begins with the death of Kweku Sai. 
          Kweku Sai, a Ghanaian, was married to Folashade, a Nigerian and they have four children, Olu, Taiwo, Kehinde and Sadie. In the book we find that he walked out on his family and moved back to his home country.
          His death brings the family back together from where they are all scattered and helps them to find healing and a closeness that they lost due to things left unsaid and pain inhabited over time
It's a well crafted story with beautiful characters with real life problems. You'll cry a lot more than you'll laugh. Taiye Selasi has the gift of transferring the emotion depicted in the her writing to the reader, such that the reader sort of becomes so emotional invested in the story, in the characters' lives, they just want to hug Sadie, or tell Taiwo "it will be fine."

I read Half of a Yellow Sun in 2007 for the first time. The copy I purchased quite unusually had a few missing pages, I never got to know the real details of what happened between Richard and Olanna. When I read the news that the film tie-in edition was to be released in March I prepared myself and grabbed my new copy as soon as possible.

Rereading it was a totally different experience from the first time I read it. It remains a story about war, love in the time of war. The pain of death, the cruelty of man to his neighbour. I read it through different eyes and felt even  more pain and sadness at what people suffered during that time. I don't have family members that experienced the war and the best my father could tell me about his experience then is just hearing in the news about the war, as a young boy and years later seeing Igbo boys, who looked much older and well-built being admitted into the same form with them (their juniors), after the war was over.

At a point, as I reread the book I remembered the lady that cried as she made a contribution relating to Half of a Yellow Sun at Chimamanda's book signing of Americanah last year, which held at Glendora bookshop, Ikeja City Mall. I imagined what depth of pain she must have felt as she cried and what the Biafra war meant/means to her family and how it affected them.

There's no doubt war is very terrible.

It's totally great that the movie adaptation is out and I get to see these characters I love so much on screen. I hope to see the movie tomorrow, April 25. I kept replaying the movie trailer as I read the book, fussing over little things like Miss Adebayo (Genevieve Nnaji) calling Olanna (Thandie Newton), 'illogically beautiful' when in the book Miss Adebayo says 'Illogically pretty' (Oh well, I'm sure I have nothing to fuss about. Don't mind me. Movies are different from books in many ways) , but all the same happy to see these characters on screen; catching glimpses of Aniekwena (OC Ukeje), Dr Patel e.t.c.

* Update: So apparently the movie did not show on April 25 in Nigerian Cinemas due to a delay on the side of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board. Let's hope they sort out the 'unresolved issues' soon, because me I can't wait o.

The movie will be a great one, no doubt and I'll probably cry after watching it.

I like in particular how close to the end of the book, Ugwu finds his writing voice. After a gruesome experience at the war front and his return home, he starts to scribble everywhere, on newspapers, sheets of papers e.t.c and finally goes on to write the book 'The World Was Silent When We died', dedicated to his master ("For Master, my good man"). I don't know how I missed that before, but I totally could relate to and imagine the feeling of having a story to tell and just scribbling anywhere and everywhere, making mistakes, getting frustrated and then finally achieving something certain and telling the story you've always wanted to tell, the way it should be told. That for me probably depicts a writer's journey in some or most ways.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a great book that will remain very relevant for very many years to come.

 Fine Boys is what I'm currently reading. I only just started. I've heard/read good things about the book  and hope I find it a lovely read as the other awesome books I've read so far, this year.


Till next time (if I don't run away for too long)...:)