Set in Lagos, Black Sunday is a tale of four children attempting to overcome the misfortune placed upon them by their parents. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, for even though the novel is elegantly crafted to give us the perspectives of all four siblings, each chapter feeling like a contained story in and of itself, there is a real drive to the story as we eagerly turn the pages to find out what will happen to these children next.
Originally from a middle-class, educated family, their mother loses her job. Shortly afterwards their father is swindled out of all of his money by a pastor at their church and the family are left destitute. Their mother runs away to New York, leaving them behind with their father who soon abandons them to his mother. Their easy life is now filled with the worry of money and hunger.
I bought Quicksand & Passing after seeing it recommended by Emily Midorikawa on Instagram. I knew nothing about the book and didn’t really know what to expect. What I found was an inquisitive and eloquent voice that really transported me into the mind of Helga in Quicksand and Irene in Passing. I’m a huge fan of the concise, short novel (often really a novella by any other name). I love the way it can hone in on one theme or idea in a way that a longer work can struggle to sustain.
Both works tackle the concept of race in the 1920s, most specifically in America but touching on Europe too.
I was sent a review copy of this book by the wonderful Irenosen Okojie whose story ‘Three Wise Women’ is an excellent example of what this collection does so well: it creates memorable stories of struggle and survival, distillations of lived experience that are both remembered and inherited, delivered in ways which play with our sense of the straightforward narrative. Of course, not all the stories play with form, but some of my favourites do.
‘Eight’ by A. J. Ashworth combines facts about the sun with an exploration of panic and crippling anxiety. ‘Three Wise Women’ by Irenosen Okojie allows us to reconfigure the heroines of her story, giving the reader the chance to find them within herself. ‘The Lily Show’ by Lily Bailey begins mid sentence, situating us right in the flow of her obsessive compulsive disorder, placing us in the Truman show bubble that she imagines herself within.