Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

‘In Lagos, bad things happened all the time.’

They certainly do for twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike when family disasters disturb their previously comfortable life in the city of Lagos in Nigeria from 1996.

Over 20 years this excellently written coming of age novel describes the sisters and their younger brothers as they come to terms with extraordinary challenges to their circumstances and how they must suddenly – and not always successfully – mature into young adults.

Life changes rapidly when they go to live with their traditional Yoruba grandmother, particularly for the twin sisters as they seem to diverge in their beliefs and views of life and more particularly love.

The author writes intimately about the struggles of young womanhood but also explores the feelings of the boys, who find school is founded on brutish discipline. The Nigerians in this book value education, it is hard tasked by often brutish teachers, although when kindness is found it means so much.

The transference through childhood to adulthood is well described and fate plays its part in affecting the changes in many of their personality characteristics. After all, as we draw to the end survival has to be accomplished despite numerous sadness.

As a personal read it was absorbing to learn about life for younger people in Nigeria and there is mentioned in passing the background of government and other issues which begin to affect people and companies – I was intrigued to read of those who had bought Nestle PLC shares. The book considers how the effects of Western culture impacted greatly on many citizens.  Religion too is vitally important in both the story and also the structure of how the sisters’ lives will be determined. I am perhaps biased, but again after reading the final chapters it certainly doesn’t seem to reflect a force for good for many and is both corrupt, money grabbing and exploitative– especially for young women.

A writer to look out for in the future.

I think a book group would be interested in reading about the ordinary lives that experience such highs and lows.

Published by Canongate Books Ltd – first published by Catapult in USA
ISBN   978-1-83885-158-3    Paperback