17 Feb Eleven Spellbinding Nigerian Novels to read
Are you looking for spellbinding Nigerian novels to read? This article is specially for you.
Eleven Spellbinding Nigerian Novels to read
A country of over 200 million, Nigeria, with its large population, is the most eminent and populous African country. Beneath this enormous population lies fascinating things about the country, ranging from its soul-sublimating music, diverse culture, and highly watched movie.
The Nigerian literary world is deep. This article will guide you through the fictional world of the most populous and diverse black country in the world.
In terms of African literature, Nigeria leads— no doubt. There’s no genre of literature that you won’t find in abundance in Nigeria with its spell-binding storylines, ranging from romance, colonialism, and queer to culture. They’re all there.
Since the fifties, fictional books are churned out yearly by either established authors or by those debuting writers to satisfy local demands. However, there seemed to be a decline in reading culture from the seventies forward due to the oil decline, which resulted in low publication till the early 2000s. The emergence of the internet made access to books easier, rewaking the reading culture in people, and led to an increase in demand for Nigeria’s books worldwide. Moreover, the rise of new prolific writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and others turned the world’s attention to Nigeria’s literature.
If you’re indeed new to Nigeria’s world of fiction or looking for Nigeria’s best novels or books, this article is for you. It will help you select the best and most fascinating books by Nigerian authors.
The Joy of Motherhood — Buchi Emecheta
This novel is considered an autobiographical novel. Set at a time when women’s education was forbidden in Nigeria. Ada, the protagonist, craved joining her male counterparts to walk to school every morning. However, her dream was thwarted by societal limitations on women. Training women in school, as it were, was seen as a waste of money in her society, and those who seemed to defy the norm and sent their female children to school did it solely because educated women had more tendency to attract ‘rich’ suitors.
Against her parents’ wish, Ada self-enrolled in school. She often got punished by her parents, but she fiercely resisted them.
Emechata was inspired to write this book through her personal experience.
Things Fall Apart (1958)— Chinua Achebe
If you’re into Nigerian literature, and you’re yet to read Things Fall Apart, sincerely, you haven’t started. Things Fall Apart is the most widely read African book and is studied across the world, especially in English-speaking countries. It has been translated into over 60 languages. First published in 1958, Things Fall Apart follows the story of Okonkwo, who stood against the incursion of Europeans into Igbo. He feared their inversion would result in the dwindling of his people’s culture.
Okonkwo was brave and industrious, unlike his lazy father, who died hungrily. Okonkwo resented his father’s poor achievement and dishonorable stand in the community, making him work tirelessly to sit amongst the most successful people in his village. Things Fall Apart is a must-read novel by anyone of African descent.
3. Purple Hibiscus (2003) — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie’s debut novel is about two siblings who only get to see outside their luxurious home in Enugu on school days. For the rest of their life in the story, they have to cope with living under their oppressive father, who ass revered in the community for his charity work, even though he was a religious beast at home.
Kambili and Jaja got a taste of freedom on their visit to their aunt in Nsukka and hence developed the balls to resist their abusive father at home.
4. The Famished Road (1991)— Ben Okri
It’s a post-colonial Nigeria novel about Abiku, a spirit child who is often disturbed by his siblings from another invisible world to leave his mortal life and return to the spirit world. Azoro chooses to be born to bring happiness to her now mother, and because he’s so attached to her, he refuses to be forced into returning to the spirit world. They continue to torment his life until his father accidentally knocks the spirit carrier down in Mama Koto’s restaurant.
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5. Death and King’s Horseman — Wole Soyinka
Soyinka has several incredible books to his name. However, Death and King’s Horseman is one of his best plays. The play is historical fiction. Soyinka, in the play, tells the story of Elesin Oba, who has to commit ritual suicide to enable the Oba’s journey to the afterlife. As an Oba’s horseman, he was required to commit suicide following the Oba’s death; failing to do that would result in the earth collapsing.
The play is based on a real-life story that happened during the colonial period; the Oba died, and according to Yoruba tradition, the Elesin will have to commit suicide to enable the Oba to ascend to the afterlife and save the cosmos from ultimate collapse. However, upon learning about the sacrifice, the British colonial district officers intervened and stopped the sacrifice before its completion.
6. Jaguar Nana (1961) — Cyprian Ekwensi
Published at a time when Nigerian books could hardly cross Nigerian borders, Jaguar Nana defied this impediment to garner readers from the Western world. The novel focuses on a well-built woman in her late 40s who financed her expensive lifestyle through prostitution. Despite her advanced age, she was still admirable and beautiful. She hung her hope of getting married to a younger lover who eventually abandoned her to marry another woman after his studies in the UK.
7. I Do Not Come To You by Chance (2009)— Adaobi Tricia Nwanuobi
The novel centers on Kingsley Ibe, whose degree certificate can’t get a job after graduation. Ibe is brutally confronted by the rife unemployment in Nigeria and is depressed by his inability to assume his role in his family as the first son, making him shamefully look inward for help.
As a first son, Ibe is expected to take over the responsibility of his family from his father, whose health is failing. When he found himself unable to cater to their needs, he turns to his uncle, Cash Daddy, a fraudster living an extravagant life from the proceeds of the email scam.
8. Stay With Me— Ayobami Adebayo
The novel is about two lovers who were together since their university years. Before they married, they agreed not to let anything tear them apart. Unfortunately, after four years of marriage without a child, the beautiful and tight marriage began to get loose as a yearning for a child grew. Yejide knowing her marriage is on the verge of failing because of her inability to have a child began to do whatever she could to get a child and save her marriage.
9. Freshwater— Akwazi Akwaeke
Akwazi’s debut novel, Freshwater, sheds light on the plight of the protagonist, Ada, who was born different and developed separate selves within herself because she was born “with one foot on the other side”.
10. Season of Crimson Blossom (2015)— Abubakar Adam Mohammed
The book shook Nigeria at the time of its release. Season of Crimson Blossom is one of the fascinating Nigerian novels to read. The book got a lot of attention after its release due to several reasons. Firstly, it came from the region underheard in the literature world. Secondly, it exposed the hypocritical life of the conservative North, where Sharia police and court seemingly have more power than the federal government. So when the book was released, several people were shocked by its content.
The novel tells the story of a 55-year-old widow having a love affair with a 25-year-old gang leader and drug dealer. The story sheds light on the dark side of the conservative North.
11. Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Don’t be disappointed that Adichie made it onto the list twice. She deserves more. Adichie’s books are crammed with spell-binding storylines that may cause readers to lose consciousness. Since she released her debut novel in 2003— Purple Hibiscus— the American-Nigerian author has been making readers crave to read more of her works. So, unarguably, she is one of the best drivers—if not the best— of Nigeria’s literature to the world.
Half of a Yellow Sun is set during the Nigerian Civil War, also known as Nigeria-Biafra War. Chimamanda tells the story of the horrific war through the perspectives of five characters, including the twin sisters of the wealthy businessman, who eventually resorts to using one of her twin daughters to gain favor from the corrupt Nigerian politicians. This novel is a must-read for anyone interested in Nigeria’s literature.