Night Dancer by Chika Unigwe

Night Dancer

Genre Fiction.

Blurb “Mma has just buried her mother, and now she is alone.

She has been left everything.

But she’s also inherited her mother’s bad name.

A bold, brash woman, the only thing her mother refused to discuss was her past. Why did she flee her family and bring her daughter to a new town when she was a baby? What was she escaping from?

Abandoned now, Mma has no knowledge of her father or her family – but she is desperate to find out.

Night Dancer is a powerful and moving novel about the relationship between mothers and daughters, about the bonds of family, about knowing when to fulfil your duty, and when you must be brave enough not to. Presenting a vista of Nigeria over the past half-century, it is a vibrant and heartfelt exploration of one woman’s search for belonging.”

Dialogue Well written in English with smatterings of Igbo and Nigerian Pidgin. The dialogue gave credence to the story.

Themes Self-discovery, Change vs Tradition, Family, Female Roles, Individual vs Society and Communication.

Editing Some typesetting errors.

Plot Nma, a 22-year-old woman has just lost her mother, Ezi but is not mourning her. Raised alone by Ezi, their relationship is strained by the difficult childhood Nma had because of society’s reaction to Ezi’s choices and actions. Nma sets out to discover her family, hidden by her mother throughout her lifetime and finds out that things are not always what they seem.

What worked? This book has the same vibes as The Domestication of Munachi by Ifesinachi Okpagu though Night Dancer is better written. It’s a slow burner, divided into three parts focused on three women; Ezi, Rapu and Nma. The story is narrated in the third person which works as you can get into the heads of the characters. This third person narration is especially useful for understanding why Mike acted the way he did. Chika uses descriptive narration and flashbacks while challenging the rationale of both modern and traditional opinions.

She brings her characters to life with the details about their innermost thoughts and quirks. Ezi’s repetition of certain words feels familiar and these details make the characters more real and relatable. The characters talk and act in a believable manner and the story is enthralling.

As you read the story, you can’t help wondering how different things may have been in Ezi and Nma’s relationship if they had communicated better. Yet, you acknowledge it is not unusual for a Nigerian mother to be close-mouthed and expect her child to understand her actions are in their best interest.

The book explores difficult but familiar issues of gender roles and the “master-servant” dynamics between house helps and their employers in Nigeria. It highlights the double standards – how society treats men and women differently for infidelity. It also touches on the struggles of single parenthood and the difficulties in challenging the status quo in society.

Madam Gold’s friendship with Ezi is heart-warming. She is the most balanced character in this book.

What didn’t work? Nma isn’t a likeable character, you empathise that she had a difficult childhood but may find it difficult to relate to her seeming callousness towards her mother. In her case, action and reaction aren’t equal.

Number of pages 272 (paperback).

Publisher Paressia Publishers.

Damage N500 on Okadabooks.

Rating 7.5/10.

Night Dancer is available on Amazon and Okadabooks.

Have you read Night Dancer? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

4 replies

  1. I haven’t read it but I have it and I don’t think I’m going to be reading it soon, but this is a wonderful review and I’ll like to repost it on Parrésia’s blog

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