Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Review | In Dependence


In Dependence is written by Sarah Ladipo Manyika. I discovered this book through Cassava Republic who is its publisher.  Firstly let's say that In Dependence exceeded my expectations for so many reasons. However, there are a few loose ends I felt the author could have tidied up. 

Synopsis
The story begins in the early 60s, in Ibadan Nigeria. Tayo Ajayi has won a scholarship to study at Oxford University  in the UK. After a brief relationship with Christine,  a fellow Nigerian also studying at the University,  Tayo meets and falls in love with Vanessa Richardson.

The problem is she's white and the daughter of a former colonial officer.
Despite the violent racism of 1960s England and disapproval from her father,  the pair fight the odds in order stay together. They are two young people in love who just want to be left to live their lives. Their aligning views on decolonisation and their common interest in music. But their environment is a major impediment. 

When Tayo receives a letter from home to urging him to return to Nigeria to see his sick father, he has no choice but to drop everything and make the trip back. Eventually Vanessa follows his trail, also making the trip so they can be together again. However, when she arrives Tayo is not quite himself. Then, one morning in a charming hotel room in Lagos he drops a bombshell. A lady is pregnant and he's the father.

What follows is forty years of a two strand story as we are sent down two trajectories in a series of alternating narratives as we see how this set of unfortunate circumstances affects the life of each character. Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s In Dependence is a remarkable journey into how people navigate personal desires amidst the weight of cultural expectation.

Wrong choices?
Whilst reading In Dependence,  I couldn't help but feel annoyed at the characters' life choices. It's normal to root for the main character, but quite on the contrary I was disgruntled at the the fact that at some point, Tayo failed almost all the women in his life - right from his first girlfriend  in Ibadan, and I wonder whether the author was trying to make a point about the way love is expressed (or not) by African men. I also wished some of the characters would have fought a little more for their relationships.

The book's main themes are love, race, and politics set in the early post colonial era, onwards. 

There is a lot to unpack. Although Tayo and Vanessa's lives are in the foreground of the story line, their stories are laced with world politics and in fact, in the last third of the book propels the story forward for the most part. This wide-reaching novel covers key historical moments across the world - from the counter-cultural revolution of the 60s, Malcom X’s famous visit to Oxford, the optimism and hope at the dawn of Nigeria’s independence to the economic collapse of the country and the military repression of the post-independence years.




A book of many components
When reading Independence, there is a lot to consider. The story moves back and forth between four cities,  spans four decades, is told from two viewpoints and takes on both letter and narrative form.  Considering the different elements the author had to juggle she did a very good job.  But I wonder if it may have been a little too much - it felt as if one or two of the characters just made an appearance with no explanation and I got the impression that the writer neglected to tell their backstory or reason for existing.

Despite this,  I felt In Dependence was all in all a marvellous story. My fear before reading it was that it would read like a text book, perhaps focusing too much on the socio-political context,  however I was pleasantly surprised at how much the author had invested in her characters, bringing them to life with vivid physical descriptions, emotions and flaws. My only hope is that the publishers do something about the front cover of the book because it doesn't do much to sell its contents. (Yes we're judging books by covers over here!)

I definitely would recommend it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post with Cassava Republic. All opinions are my own

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