Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to Nigeria - a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts and sense of individuality. Then her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered there, and she didn't return for 10 years. Recently, she decided to rediscover and come to terms with the country her father loved. She travelled from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the empty Transwonderland Amusement Park - Nigeria's decrepit and deserted answer to Disneyland. She explored Nigerian Christianity, delved into its history of slavery, examined the corrupting effect of oil, and investigated Nollywood.
She found the country as exasperating as ever and frequently despaired at the corruption and inefficiency she encountered. But she also discovered that it was far more beautiful and varied than she had ever imagined, and was seduced by its thick tropical rainforest and ancient palaces and monuments. Most engagingly of all she introduces us to the people she meets, and gives us hilarious insights into the Nigerian character, its passion, wit and ingenuity.
Having travelled fairly extensively in West Africa, Noo Saro Wiwa's journey across the country in which she was born was an interesting trip down memory lane for me. It's definitely not a holiday guide, and it's unlikely to persuade many people to try out the Nigerian hospitality, but it was a humorous, incredibly insightful look at a country that few outside have any idea about.
The telling is affectionate, and the author makes a journey inside herself as well, from her own preconceptions based on her teenage experiences, including the murder of her father under the military regime in 1995, to a new love and appreciation for what the country has to offer in a relatively young democracy.
If you enjoyed 'Blood River' by Tim Butcher, about his travels in the Congo, I think you'll enjoy this too, both books look into the beauty and humour of the people and the landscape, while noting the missed opportunities of these frail countries' infrastructure and hopes for a more positive future. Adjoa Andoh does a great job narrating a very difficult cast, bringing the colour that you'd expect to this story of a glittering, fallible country.
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Nice travel writing. Read almost autobiographical, lovely work by the reader.. I'm convinced to look for other work by Ms. Saro-Wiwa now. Good stuff.