Review: Roses and Bullets by Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo
Title: Roses and Bullets
Author: Adimora-Ezeigbo, Akachi
Length: 486 pages
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Publisher / Year: Jalaa Writers’ Collective / 2011
Why I Read It: More Nigerian lit, it was nominated for an ANA prize, and I enjoyed the previous book I’d read from Jalaa WC.
Date Read: 15/12/11
Phew. Anyone who was on twitter on Sunday already has a taste of what I thought of this book – namely that it really needed an editor. It is rather unfortunate, really, as for some reason I feel Adimora-Ezeigbo could have done much more with this story. I have an inability to abandon a book because I keep thinking the best and that it will improve. This is a skill that I really must learn in 2012.
This book follows Ginika, a young girl in Higher School in Nigeria (as the book says, “The Higher School students – as girls in Higher School were called in her school” ). She is away at boarding school when the war starts between the newly independent country of Biafra and Nigeria, closing her school and causing her to be taken home to live with her father and step-mother. She meets a young man, they fall in love, and the book follows them.
Ginika as a character was incredibly spoiled and bratty. Consider how the book starts: her father comes to take her home from her aunt’s house, where she has gone after school without his permission, and so she screams the entire drive home. Because she’ll show him… I cannot even imagine – I can tell you for sure my parents would not have stood for this!! Yet she is always upset with rules and thinks that she is being treated unfairly. Throughout the entire book she shows a ridiculous lack of empathy or care for anyone but herself. There is no character growth or development as even at the end of the book she is exactly the same as she was. She talks about how she has changed after going through so much, but her actions show her to be exactly the same.
Although I said above that the book follows Ginika and her love interest, Eloka, in reality almost nothing actually happens. We have characters going through life but it never seems real, and there is never much to keep the reader interested. When the big ‘twist’ comes about 3/4 of the way through, and that causes all of the ensuing drama, you could see it coming chapters in advance and I was just hoping that it wouldn’t go there… but the author did, and of course it causes exactly what one would think, with general victim blaming abounding.
We see what life can be like living through a civil war, and what that means, but yet nothing happened. So we have flat characters with no character development and a general lack of plot and action, but all of this was really caused by the lack of editing I believe. The book could have been cut in half by the removal of unnecessary words and sections that did nothing to move the plot forward but just added too much detail (like the quote above about Higher School). Some other examples and quotes:
Through the book for the most part the book was written in very flowery speech, very wordy and showing off a very thorough knowledge of the English language and thesaurus usage. But ‘common’ was often used for ‘come on’.
“She liked how he looked – his jet black skin, his big eyeballs” (I’m guessing the word that was meant here was simply eyes? It goes on to say how her school mates called such big eyeballs ‘romantic eyes’.)
“soon she felt his tongue all over her face and neck after which it sought her mouth again” (Is this a thing? To lick people’s faces in the heat of passion?)
“Reassured and comforted, Ginika let him into the core of her womanhood and anchored him” (Again, during a steamy scene. Is this really steamy? I just thought it sounded awkward.)
“He boiled with anger and cut his finger with the knife which Uzo had sharpened the previous day against a stone at the back of the house.” (He is angry and accidentally cuts his finger… do we really need to know who sharpened the knife and where and when? This is an example of unnecessary details that really do nothing to move the story forward.)
But yet… I kept reading waiting for improvement. Sadly it didn’t come in this book, but I do think that the author does show potential. I was surprised, however, to see that the author has written and published a large number of works to date and that she has won awards for it. In fact, this book received second prize in the ANA/NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize For Prose, which I must say confuses me, as above I show how terrible I really thought the prose was (Twilight at Terracotta Indigo which I reviewed last week came in third. Lola Shoneyin won with The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives). So perhaps I have it completely wrong and the book is, indeed, fantastic. Personally I wouldn’t recommend this book as I found it painful to read, though I do really want to discuss what I see as a completely absurd and ridiculous ending. So if anyone else can get through it, I’d love to discuss.