Although not the first story set in the bustling city of Lagos, Chibundu Onuzo’s book definitely differs from the rest.
Welcome to Lagos begins in the Niger Delta with two army members, deserting their squadron, to head far away to Lagos. Along the way, they manage to pick up a motley crew of people heading to this city for a new life, staying amongst dwellers in Makoko (what’s been described as the world’s largest floating slum) and squatting in what they believe is an abandoned house. The book tells the tale of altruism and charity in the most unlikely of circumstances.
This is Onuzo’s second novel, following her acclaimed Spider King’s Daughter, and it certainly delivers. The reader is given a snapshot into some of the complications that come with making it in Lagos, and through each character, Onuzo explores important themes and issues that plague the city, like corruption, and social mobility.
The story flows seamlessly, and I really felt I could connect with each character well, a reflection of Onuzo’s great writing style. Oh, and the plot is fantastic, and much like her debut, twists and turns in ways you wouldn’t expect, with one critic stating it has a Nollywood-esque story line (this can only be a compliment!).
Each chapter begins with a short quote taken from the newspaper, Nigerian journal, from for sale advertisements and obituaries, to fashion advice like, “stripes can be slimming. Just make sure they’re going in the right direction”. Although fictitious, these humorous inserts are insightful and enable the reader to get an understanding of the multifaceted and bold city that is Lagos.
A completely irrelevant point, but Onuzo was born in 1991, meaning she is 26 and already writing magic. I thus expect a book from her every few years until 2087, read Welcome to Lagos and you’ll be demanding the same too.