Genre Nonfiction – Travelogue.
Blurb “Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to visit her father in Nigeria — a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts and sense of individuality. After her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was killed there, she didn’t return for several years. Recently, she decided to come to terms with the country her father given his life for.
Saro-Wiwa travels from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the decrepit kitsch of the Transwonderland Amusement Park. She explores Nigerian Christianity, delves into the country’s history of slavery, examines the corrupting effect of oil, and ponders the huge success of Nollywood.
She finds the country as exasperating as ever, and frequently despairs at the corruption and inefficiency she encounters. But she also discovers that it is far more beautiful and varied than she had ever imagined, with its captivating thick tropical rainforest and ancient palaces and monuments. Most engagingly of all, she introduces us to the many people she meets, and gives us hilarious insights into the African character, its passion, wit and ingenuity.”
Editing A few errors.
What worked? We’ve only read and reviewed one travelogue on the blog written in poetic form, Edwardsville by Heart which we really enjoyed. So we were looking forward to reading another travelogue in a different form.
History, political commentary and several funny events are woven into the fabric of this travelogue. Over the course of three months, Noo travelled to eleven towns in the different regions of Nigeria and writes about the different cultures and lifestyles in these places. Even Nigerians born and bred in Nigeria will learn something new about the country and its people from this book.
While experiencing these places with Noo, you see Nigerians through the eyes of what Mo describes as an estranged daughter. It’s always fascinating seeing all the things a foreigner/visitor or someone who wasn’t brought up in Nigeria notices about the country and her people. Without sugar-coating or mincing words, Noo confronted the country which was the subject of her nightmares.
Transwonderland, a dilapidated theme park in Ibadan, just like every historical site Noo visited, is an allegory of Nigeria. It tells the story of dysfunction in the country due to neglect and corruption and made Mo pause for a bit while reading.
What didn’t work?
Lady B The travelogue reads more like a memoir, sometimes, I just wanted Noo to state what she experienced in a more dispassionate manner.
I found the chapters too long and even though the writing was engaging, I think some information could have been left out of the book without affecting the overall output.
Whilst corruption and the patronage system is obviously a huge challenge in Nigeria, it is not the biggest challenge or the main reason why Nigeria isn’t fulfilling her potential and catering to needs of her citizenry. Nigeria is not productive and competitive enough. Even without corruption, her paltry earnings cannot sustain her huge population and size.
Mo What stood out for me is the narration in the first half of the book compared to the second half. While the first half was narrated in a somewhat sprightly and witty manner, her visit to Port-Harcourt wasn’t described in the same manner. It was gloomy and particularly jarring but beneath all the gloom is hope rather than despair.
Number of pages 312.
Publisher Granta Books.
Damage $5.84 (paperback).