My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Black Sunday follows the children of a fractured family who end up abandoned by both parents to live with their Grandmother in a poor Lagos neighbourhood. Twin older sisters Bibike and Ariyike are more in focus than their two younger brothers Andrew and Peter. The story is told mostly in first person segments from the points of view of each of the four children with one exception in a segment of Peter’s where it was written in second person, which seemed like an odd choice to go against the trend of the rest of the book.
The story spans two decades of their lives growing up and trying to survive poor and parent-less in Lagos and how they each find different ways to carve out their own futures. The girls start working to put their brothers through school and University; Ariyike becoming a famous Christian radio presenter and later moving to Christian TV with the very same church who conned her father out of their family home and destroyed their lives.
Some sections seem a little stilted in the prose, however it’s important to remember these are being told from the point of view of children. As the four grow up the prose becomes more smooth as the characters are maturing. The story can be difficult to digest as it demonstrates the personal suffering of this family and even moreso the suffering of the twin sisters as girls and women growing up in a deeply misogynistic, male-dominated society.
Within the blurb for the book it mentions: “the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters: one embracing modernity as the years pass, the other consumed by religion.” I had this in mind as I read through the book and I was expecting one sister to stay with their Yoruba grandmother (one does) and for that to be the one ‘consumed by religion’. However, to me it seemed the sister consumed by religion was also the one who embraced modernity – embracing modern technology and the movement of power into the use of those technologies. Each sister seems to embrace modernity in a different way and both have religion in their lives to a greater or lesser extent. It is not quite as clear-cut as the blurb might imply.
The ending of the book initially seemed a little flat to me but after thinking about it for a while I feel it does provide what I was after, only much more subtly than I was expecting. That is a common theme with the book, there is a lot happening that is big, bold and obvious, smacking you in the face but underneath there is a lot working subtly in the background that might take you a little longer to recognise and appreciate.
This was my 47th book of 2020.
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