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In Dependence, by Sarah Ladipo Mayika.

February 16, 2014

In Dependence, by Sarah Ladipo Mayika.  Legend Press Ltd (2008), Paperback, 274 pages.

AFRICA READING CHALLENGE

GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR

A moving novel about a Nigerian man and an English woman who fall in love at Oxford in the 1960s and the lives they live afterward as they and Africa lose their sense of idealism and hope.

 A familiar way in which authors can write about cultural and racial conflict is to tell the story of couples from different ethnicities and cultures and the chaos that their love creates in their families and communities and within themselves.  The opening third of this novel by a Nigerian writer is an excellent example of such books.  Tayo goes from Nigeria to Oxford to study.  Although he sometimes felt guilty about rejecting African women, he and Vanessa fall in love. Sometimes they question their own attraction, and they encounter opposition. Vanessa’s father forbids them to marry.  Tayo, with his respect for family elders, is ready to give up their relationship, but Vanessa did not agree. Then Tayo returns home because of his father’s serious illness, and behaves in ways that destroy the couple’s hope for the future.   At this point, the novel moves beyond most biracial love stories by following the lives of both Tayo and Vanessa. We see the regret with which both move through their lives and finally meet again.

 This book is not simply story of personal love and loss.  It is a story layered with political and social meaning.  Tayo goes to England with the same sense of hope that permeated the newly independent African nations like Nigeria in the 1960s.  Over the next decades, political corruption and greed created chaos and danger in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, even for a moderate university professor like Tayo.  Readers witness his sense of personal decline and failure, despite his professional success, and they also see why he grieves for his country.

 Although this is Sarah Ladipo Mayka’s first novel, she tells a multidimensional story with skill and understanding.  Tayo is somewhat more clearly drawn than Vanessa, and he was the character with whom I empathized most.  Vanessa is a strong and positive figure, but I felt she was more distant.  I wondered, as she herself does, about her popularity as an English journalist writing about Africa especially after she returns to London.

 I strongly encourage others to read this book, especially those interested in Africa and those curious about the variety of ways that people love across racial borders.  In addition this is a book for all ready to face the loss of youthful dreams.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. aartichapati permalink
    February 16, 2014 2:43 pm

    Great review! Interesting that the male character is more developed than the female; I actually often find that the case with novels that are about a romance. (Though this one seems to be a lot more.) Often, the woman is just some sort of foil for the man rather than a person who stands on her own as a character.

    Regardless, this sounds like one I should pick up! Thanks.

  2. February 16, 2014 5:30 pm

    I’m reading The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska right now and it shares a lot of the same themes- intercultural relationships and loss of idealism. So far I would say that the women are more vivid characters than the men though.

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