Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ten of the best African novels

Publishers Weekly asked five novelists, each from a different African country and with a new novel out this spring, to select two of their favorite African novels. One of Yewande Omotoso's picks:
A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

There is a way in which the details of this book imbue all the characters, from the major to the walk-ons, with an exuberance that means they live beyond the page. After living in London for many years and working as a financial expert for an international charity, 39-year-old Deola Bello returns home to her ultra-wealthy family in Ikoyi, Lagos, on the occasion of her father’s five-year memorial service. But there is also a listlessness to her life that makes the homecoming all the more portentous. The novel seems to move on the engine of anecdotes. Back home, Deola’s mother nags her about the lack of grandchildren; through the lives of Deola’s sisters-in-law we observe the sober realities of patriarchy. In a precise and blistering scene, Atta gives a picture of the Lagos elite: "Nigeria is where they are called 'Madam' and treated with respect. They pass on their sense of entitlement to their children through estates. They are Nigerian Tories." The tone is wry, often caustic, but also humorous and moving. I enjoyed the unabashed presence of opinions and I got the sense that Atta doesn’t feel the need to disguise ideas and debate in fiction, that for her (and I am thankful for this) they are one and the same.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue