28 Thursday May 2015
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The latest addition to my website is Irenosen Okojie‘s Butterfly Fish. This is a very accomplished and colourful debut novel by a Nigerian-born English writer. It tells the story of Joy Lowon, an English woman of Nigerian origin, while, at the same time, the story of Adeusa, eighth wife of the ruler of Benin (nothing to do with modern-day Benin but located in what is now Nigeria). The two stories run consecutively and are connected by a bronze head, which Adeusa receives from her husband and which Joy inherits from Queenie, her late mother. We follow Joy’s somewhat troubled life in England, her mother’s somewhat troubled life after emigrating from Nigeria to England, her grandfather’s troubled life in pre- and post-independence Nigeria and, of course Adeusa, whose life is also somewhat troubled. In short, all the main characters have their problems, often caused by events in their past, either things they themselves did or things their ancestors did. Okojie tells not only a superbly well-written complex story of intertwining lives but uses a wonderfully colourful language and brings in Nigerian story-telling, myths and strange creatures, all of which make her English-based story more otherworldly. Okojie is clearly going to be an author to watch. The book was published by Jacaranda, a new independent publisher that publishes adult fiction and non-fiction, including illustrated books, which cross linguistic, racial, gender and cultural boundaries.