Book Review : In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika




Book Review : In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika




Perhaps, In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika would not have been my first choice in a catalogue of book offers because it is a love story - the blurb at the back cover describes it as "Tayo and Vanessa's story of a brave but bittersweet love affair" - and having grown weary of love stories,  I simply would not have picked it.

First published in 2008, but made popular only recently by JAMB, when it made the novel its compulsory recommended literature,  In Dependence proved just pages in,  to be anything but just another love story. It is a coming of age story, a story of highlife and jazz and one that encapsulates the intricacies of living in a world of changing times.

In Dependence is a deeply riveting tale that captures the post-colonial era with an unrelenting fastidiousness and in such a clear worded manner. From such a time as full of sea travels,  handwritten letters and a general apprehension for the future to the more recent '90's and across such places as Nigeria, England and America, Ms Manyika's lead characters - Tayo Ajayi and Vanessa Richardson - are presented as flawed, struggling people trying to survive whatever the turbulent times throw their way.

Tayo travels to England from newly independent Nigeria to school at Oxford where he meets Vanessa,  a white Englishwoman, whom he becomes enamoured with.

Despite the fact that England circa 1960's was an extremely racist place - and perhaps, this is the writer infusing some romanticism into her work - Tayo and Vanessa's love flourishes to the point that marriage is a constant subject in their conversations.  Their relationship,  however,  seems to lack the ramifications that an interracial love has often been portrayed to have;  this story does not concern itself with the intense racial awareness and activism that such novels like Americanah radiate.  It is nonetheless a very realistic story that rings true on so many levels.

Perhaps, the world where In Dependence is based is one were race does not necessarily dictate on every aspect of interracial relationships. And this is refreshing in many ways.

Towards the middle of the novel,  the narrative begins to progress much faster than in the beginning; periods of skipped time are explained in paragraphs,  and that pace can be a little confusing for some readers but I will advise such readers to persevere.

The writing is delicious yet simple and is written in the omniscient third person point of view.  The novel is sometimes epistolary and the conversational style alternates between informal Nigerian English and both formal and informal British English. A number of Yoruba, Nigerian pidgin, French, Latin, Hausa, Arabic and Wolof words (whose meanings are available in the glossary) are used in the novel.

Obi Nwankanam of the Vanguard described In Dependence as a novel full of surprises. My first surprise occurred in the beginning of the book when I realised,  to my absolute delight,  that this was not just another love story. And between that and the very end,  the reader can expect many more surprises.

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