‘Rich, vivid, at once folksy and layered, naïve and knowing’ – This House Is Not for Sale by E.C. Osondu

thinfsThe novel in stories is a curious beast. Curious because it doesn’t necessarily stand or fall on how well it draws the stories into a novel, even though it probably should. When it does all fit together neatly, with Matt Sumell’s Making Nice being a very good example, it is a wondrous thing, but a looser, more laid back collection, like Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, can be very special too. As I say. Curious. This House Is Not for Sale sits somewhere between those two, tied together by its opening and closing chapters but free to roam in its middle. I liked it. You might like it too.

The house of the title becomes a home, of sorts, for many of the characters in the novel, and its patriarch, Grandpa, a friend/enemy/exploiter/king/god/trickster/consoler of each of them. Grandpa helps them but also, more often, himself, bending laws and reimagining what is and isn’t acceptable within the community in which the house is located. The house is old Nigeria perhaps, or old ways of telling stories. Old truths. Old ways. I liked that the house and Grandpa are linked by more than just geography, you might like this too.

Having only read a half dozen or so Nigerian novels I’m not going to try to pretend I can place this book within a literature or say how it reflects on other works within the canon; many references will have gone over my head. And while it is clearly playing with the concepts and methods tied to oral tradition I’m not knowledgeable enough to know or middle class enough to arrogantly reckon what those games might be. None of this matters though, because I liked it, and you might like it too.

The stories are a lot of fun: rich, vivid, at once folksy and layered, naïve and knowing. It is hard to tell how much of this is Osondu playing with the expectations of a Western audience and how much a reflection of Lagos as it is. But, this not knowing is a good thing. Who wants to only read about things they already know? Having your concept of authenticity is interesting. I liked it. You might like it too.

Any Cop?: In conclusion then, I liked this book and you might too.

Benjamin Judge

 


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