Author: Sade Adeniran
Book Title: Imagine This
Publisher: Cassava Republic
Sade Adeniran’s debut novel, Imagine This won the Commonwealth prize in 2008 for Best First Book, African Region. The book is on both the level of author as well as the text, a triumph of the will and belief in self.
Self-published when no publisher would bite, it quickly turned into a literary sensation, winning accolades from across the world with the Commonwealth prize as icing on the cake.
The novel is a coming of age tale with enough twists and turns to leave you dizzy and out of breath. The story is told as a series of letters written by Lola Ogunwole, a young girl born in
London and forced back to Nigeria with her brother Adebola.
Their story begins to unfold after they have returned to Nigeria and Lola is longing to go back to London, to their abode at 4 Egdecombe House. Their journey to Nigeria is precipitated by their mother who abandons them. There is a stint in foster before their father, in an act of filial self-preservation, ships them back to Nigeria.
The letters run for 10 years and those are 10 painful, agonising, confusing and tragic years. The book is a well realised coming of age tale chronicling the culture shock experienced by two young children transplanted from England to Nigeria and not just Nigeria, but rural Idogun.
The physical separation from the familiar locale of London is heightened by the forced separation of Lola and Adebola.
Culture shock aside, Lola has to contend with belligerent relatives and a host of other unsavoury and unfamiliar things.
Twice she is accused of stealing. The first time she is cleared but the second time, a diviner they have gone to consult says Lola is the thief and no matter how hard she cries, the oracle is adamant.
In reading Imagine This, one is struck by Sade Adeniran’s eye for detail and her evocative powers, the way she is able to capture the smell and sounds and the very essence of rural Nigeria.
Her characters are well realised, their malignity towards Lola is well conveyed and Sade Adeniran’s comical gift is impeccable. While Lola may have been born abroad and Sade wrote this in London, the African elements are well captured. The essence comes alive.
Imagine This is a painful book that captures the tribulations of a young girl as she navigates her way into womanhood. It is a book that is difficult to read at times but which ends with an all round positive message; one which shows that once we stop being the victim and accepting “our fate” we take the first step to triumphing over adversity.
Yolande, her boyfriend’s sister, makes her see that playing the victim will only perpetuate the pain when she tells her “Lola, when are you going to wake up or grow up? Yes, you’ve had a hard life and it’s unfortunate, but do you always want people to feel sorry for you?’ Chastened, Lola begins to take charge of her life.
Imagine This would have been better served, at least the Cassava Republic edition, with a little more attention to the atrocious pidgin english as we read here “Na your fault we never leave for time” and who in God’s name spells buka as BUKKAH?