Book Review: The Aso-ebi Chronicles



It is agreed that a good book can have the ability to transport its reader to a place or time that a plane ticket or time machine never could. All the reader needs is the capability to read, and a good imagination.
But, what is often downplayed is the pleasure that is derived from reading of a place, experience or person that you are already familiar with. Familiarity breeds comfort, especially when those places, people and things are brought to life with the narrative, skill and craftmanship required-  as is the case for the Aso-Ebi Chronicles.
From Bewaji's Ankara Adventures to Violet's Velvet Adventures,  The Aso-Ebi Chronicles is a colourful series of  novellas pulling together the themes of African textiles, detective work and romance.
Each novella takes you on an exciting journey through life in Nigeria, seen through the eyes of a female protagonist.


Aso-Ebi (pronounced  “ashor-ebi”, flung together in one word) literally translates to “family cloth” in Nigeria's Yoruba language and describes a uniform fabric worn by the very close friends and family of a celebrant (on his/her wedding day, or at her birthday party for example). It is from this that each novella takes its title. Ankara, woodin, lace and velvet are all examples of fabrics that can be worn as aso-ebi.
Africa and Africans are known for their love of elaborate colours, and use these colours to express their joy at special occasions.  As a Brit of Ghanaian descent, recently married to my Nigerian husband, this series immediately evoked many fond sentiments, which caused me to not just spark an immediate connection with the novellas, but with the author herself.

A quick google search led me to her website, www.sharonsalu.com, where I discovered that she grew up in Lagos, Nigeria; has written a vast collection of novellas, flash fiction stories and short stories ;and is an avid lover of all things spicy!

Each novella is a story in its own right, bringing with it its own "wahala" and array of colourful characters. Take for example,  the cunning  Olu Ade who had been duping his online lover out of regular money transfers; or Iya Siju the overweight and overbearing fabric seller in Lara's Lace Adventures. It's for this reason that the books do not have to be read in order. Hey, start from book three if you wish!

Navigating through real life can at times be serious business. And despite the light tone of each story, there is always something wicked lying just beneath the surface.  From extortion to spousal theft, kidnap and death threats each novella brings the reader something more twisted and dark to be thrilled by. 
I think the one storyline that resonated with me the most was the quiet, yet painful plot of Omalara's parents - in the third volume - whose marriage was based more on convenience than it was on love. Mrs. Adefuye made do with a husband who whilst never disliked her, also never truly gave her his whole heart. It fact it belonged to another woman, and Mrs. Adefuye maintained her marriage knowing this painful fact!

In her words,"I made the mistake of marrying a man I loved far more than he loved me. It's my weakness and my cross to bear". How gut wrenching! I think I have become a lot more sensitive about these things since getting married. Ha!

Apart from the fact that the novellas were essentially about ordinary Nigerian people, living ordinary Nigerian lives, what made the series so relatable was the selection of female characters, who each came with their unique set of strengths, flaws and complications!
Let's take Wura for example, who after 'scoring below the JAMB cut-off mark four times in a row', decided to abandon her dream of studying law at The University of Lagos; or Alhaja, her flamboyant and lively aunt who 'carried herself with an air of refinement' but had also suffered a succession of failed marriages.
Throughout the books, the author played with language in a way that made the stories accessible to any reader sitting in any part of the world, whilst still being able to keep it authentically Nigerian. The issue of language usage in Lagos is very much brought to life through her characters! Mrs. Adefuye in the third installment is a reflection of most Lagosians, a 'collector of languages'. They may speak only English, plus their native tongue fluently 'not counting the occasional pidgin needed to navigate everyday life in Lagos'. 

I personally enjoyed the pidgin banter between Lara and Kingsley in Lara's Lace Adventures. Ms. Salu, you dey try oh. Make I commot my hat hail you! hehe!
I never set out to read The Aso-Ebi Chronicles. Honestly, Bewaji's Ankara Adventures, was a book I took a chance on, as it came up on my suggested reads on Amazon Kindle. However once I popped I couldn't stop and continued like an addict in search of her next fix. If you are looking for your next journey, are seeking a bit of a thrill, if you'd like to meet some new people, and learn about a different culture, then the Aso-Ebi Chronicles is it!
Purchase your first read here
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