Genre Fiction: Contemporary romance.
Blurb Season of Crimson Blossoms tells the captivating story of an illicit affair between a twenty-five-year-old street gang leader, Hassan Reza, and a devout fifty-five-year-old widow and grandmother, Binta Zubairu, who yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage and the pain of losing her first son. This story of love and longing—set in a conservative Muslim community in Nigeria—reveals deep emotions that defy age, class, and religion.
This novel gives a unique perspective on life and relationships in Northern Nigeria, a region vastly under-represented in the body of world literature.
Dialogue Well written and believable in English, Nigerian Pidgin English and Hausa.
Themes Love, Loss, Death, Religion, Politics, Grief, Mental Health, Change vs Tradition, Family and Patriarchy.
Editing A few errors.
Plot Binta, a 55 year old grandmother, meets Reza, a 25 year old street gang leader in unusual circumstances. Their ensuing secret love affair in a conservative society has far-reaching consequences.
Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.[i]
What worked? This is an enjoyable story. Abubakar gives us a glimpse of life in a conservative northern Nigerian community on the outskirts of the country’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The storytelling is smooth and narration is authentic bringing the characters to life. The small details, such as quirks of the characters; Abida’s “sure, sure” in response to comments and questions, Reza’s “you understand” every time he speaks, Mallam Haruna’s statements which always come across as questions, Faiza repeating everything she’s told as a question before responding, etc. made the characters real and relatable.
The story has several layers and explores themes such as PTSD, as suffered by one of Binta’s grandchildren who lived with her. It touches on national and local politics and the role of political machinery. The Jos religious crisis plays a central role in the lives of the characters. It is cited as the reason Binta moved to the outskirts of Abuja. Abubakar also looks at how patriarchy affects women in conservative northern societies.
The book is moderately paced with enough twists and turns to make it an engaging read. The cultural and religious references intertwine into one homogeneous mass. These references give us a perspective of the society and how social norms impact on relationships between the characters. It’s a passionate affair but not the conventional butterfly-in-the-belly-feeling type of love story.
Lady B The book has liberal smatterings of Hausa which though not directly translated, is understandable because of the way Abubakar deftly weaves the story. He uses proverbs – each chapter begins with one – and a lot of figurative language. (This didn’t always work for Mo-read her comments below).
Soon enough, she was almost quiet, her mild wheezing strumming the night like tender fingers on a guitar.
I’ll never look at milk in a cup of tea the same way again:
The senator poured milk into the cup and watched the spiralling white storm imploding from below, bleaching the tea, subtly dominating it.
Mo This book had one of the best opening lines I’ve read in a long time:
Hajiya Binta Zubairu was finally born at fifty-five when a dark-lipped rogue with short, spiky hair, like a field of minuscule anthills, scaled her fence and landed, boots and all in the puddle that was her heart.
What I feel for this book is bitter sweet. I’m excited that a middle-aged woman was free to express herself even though it’s with a younger man. Yet, I just couldn’t shake the weird Oedipus effect that showed up in the dynamics of their relationship. You see, because of her culture, Binta couldn’t love her eldest son as she wanted to before he died. Reza, whose mother abandoned him and went away when he was a child, didn’t know a mother’s love or touch. Their affair with each other reminds them of what they lost. (You can see how weird this situation is). Even though it was short-lived, I enjoyed the rebellious effect and the fact that Binta owned her sensuality, in ways that would have been a taboo for her.
What didn’t work?
Lady B The book seems written for a Nigerian audience. Whilst Northern Nigerians may find it familiar, Southern Nigerians and definitely foreigners may struggle with understanding certain parts of the book. This wasn’t an issue for me but I appreciate that it may be an issue for others.
The end was expected, not entirely predictable but not really a surprise.
Mo African writers whose first language isn’t English often compensate their prose with verbosity, adjectives and metaphors, because the English language may not cater to the complexities and spontaneity of storytelling in their mother tongue. As much as I find this endearing, I also find it a bit tedious as I haven’t read anything written like this in a while and it requires training one’s brain to not get lost in the metaphors.
It’s melancholic. There was no reprieve for Hajiya Binta. In the end, the unfair arms that had kept her and her sensuality hostage, punished her for expressing it.
The numerous backstories were sometimes difficult for me to follow.
Page numbers 320.
Publisher Cassava Republic Press.
Damage N2,500 on Roving Heights.
Season of Crimson Blossoms is available on Amazon and local bookstores.
[i] Proverbs 9:17, The Holy Bible (KJV).
Have you read Season of Crimson Blossoms? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.