Genre Fiction: Coming of age
Blurb “Warri, October 1992: Seething with idleness and nonchalance, sick of watching his parents fight, 16-year-old Ewaen is waiting for university to begin, waiting for something to happen. Months later, Ewaen and friends are finally enrolled as freshmen at the University of Benin. Their routine now consists of hanging out in a parking lot trading jibes, chasing girls and sex, and learning to manage the staff strikes and crumbling infrastructure. But Nigerian campuses in the 1990s can be dangerous places, too. Violent confraternities stake territories and stalk for new recruits. An incident of petty crime snowballs into tragedy… Fine Boys is Eghosa Imasuen’s second novel. In the witty, colloquial style fast becoming his trademark, Imasuen presents everyday Nigerian life against the backdrop of the pro-democracy riots of the 1980s and ‘90s, the lost hopes of June 12th, and the terror of the Abacha years. Indeed Fine Boys is a chronicle of not just a time in Nigeria, but its post-Biafran generation.”
Dialogue Realistic and engaging. Written in English, Nigerian Pidgin and Nigerian Lingo with a smattering of Nigerian language (Bini).
Themes Family, Coming of age, Violence, Escape, Youth, Peer pressure and Lost Innocence.
Editing Mostly well edited, a few errors.
Plot Ewaen, a 16-year-old boy gains admission to study medicine at the University of Benin. He spends the next three years navigating his way through life as a teenager then subsequently, a young adult with his friends in school. Their lives are affected by cultism, a scourge in Nigerian universities in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The backdrop is Nigeria’s turbulent pre democracy period between 1993 and 1995.
Mo One genre of movies I’m partial to is coming of age; that transition to adulthood, the journey of self-discovery and a whole world of adventure ahead. I think Fine Boys can be adapted to make a good movie. For those who don’t have a vivid memory or recollection of the post Structural Adjustment Program era, this book paints a picture that is poignant and exciting at the same time.
Lady B Fine Boys reads like an autobiographical account of a coming of age period in the life of a young person. Narrated from the point of view of the protagonist, Ewaen, the book is very detailed about the day-to-day life of its subjects and nothing is off limit. It is written in a relaxed, humorous though heartfelt manner and will connect with most Nigerians who can easily understand the lingo and mannerisms described in the book.
Fine Boys is divided into three parts: Year One January 1993-March 1994, Year Two March 1994-March 1995 and Year Three March 1995-Eternity. The first part is a glimpse into Ewaen’s family life. He’s from a middle-class family and shares a bond with his paradoxical twin younger brother and sister. He has to live through the drama and violence that accompanies his parents’ marriage. Before book one ends, one reads about university life, from student unionism to riots to the dreaded confraternities (cults). University life for young adults, the shenanigans, first smoke, falling in love with girls and drinking alcohol. Eghosa brings back the painful memory of cults, although the book does not explore the origins of cults and the factors which led to their growth and violent criminality.
Fine Boys, though a work of fiction, provides a record of a period in Nigeria’s history. The story is punctuated with the socio-political and economic situation at the time; Nigeria’s first outing at the World Cup, M. K. O. Abiola’s arrest and Ken Saro Wiwa’s arrest and death. It chronicles the decline in the educational sector; decaying infrastructure, incessant strikes by academic and non-academic staff of universities, exam malpractice on a large scale and the victimisation of students by lecturers.
The book touches on other societal issues like the judicial system, specifically, the lapses in the prosecution of offenders by the police. The effect of bribery and corruption on policing are also brought to the fore. It also refers to sexual abuse of boys by housemaids-Ewaen’s friend, Kpobo was sexually abused by his maid as a 12 year-old. However, this is only casually referred to by Ewaen and his friend, Wilhelm to dismiss Kpobo’s claim he was no longer a virgin.
The author introduces us to Warri and Benin, we rarely get books set outside the major cities in Nigeria so this is always a plus. We love music so it was nice to read about the music of the 90s when Nigerian pop culture was heavily influenced by American R & B and Hip hop. Things are different now that Nigerian music is the soundtrack to many young people’s lives.
Fine Boys is funny, sad, painful, exciting and nostalgic. It engages one’s imagination and emotion, at the same time. It is for the most part, an interesting and well-paced story, a page-turner that leaves you wanting for more. Favourite quote — “Nemesis, she was too slow. She was a crippled, ineffective, bitter old bitch”.
What didn’t work?
Lady B I was conflicted about the narration in this book. I welcomed the bold and unusual style of writing Nigerian lingo and mannerisms without apology but I think the author could have struck a better balance. It is one thing to write in a conversation “if you hear the odour,” quite another to write NEPA has taken the light, outside of dialogue.
I was surprised that Wilhelm (Ewaen’s friend) was described as a mulatto, a dated and now widely regarded as offensive word for a mixed race person.
I thought the book was too long, some descriptions and details which didn’t do much to develop the story ought to have been removed.
Character development takes a back seat in this book as no character is fully developed in the book. Even Ewaen only has a couple of introspective moments. However, the main characters have layers with good sides and flaws making them more realistic.
Mo The ending was intense but not in a good way for me. I know it’s a memoir, but I’d have loved the other characters to shine, I really wanted to know the details of what happened to Weyinmi.
Read an excerpt of Fine Boys here.
Page numbers 604 (Part 1-211; Part 2-202; Part 3-191)
Publisher Kachifo Limited under its Farafina Imprint
Damage N500 on Okadabooks
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