Book Review: Looking For Transwonderland

23rd April, 2017 
Bangor, Gwynedd.

Book title: Looking for Transwonderland; Travels in Nigeria (Included in The Guardian’s list of top 10 contemporary books on Africa, 2016 and has been translated into Italian and French)

Author: Noo Saro-Wiwa (Daughter of the late activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Journalist and travel guide writer)

Publisher: Granta publication, London (2012)

Book type: paperback (published 2013)

Genre: Travel Guide

I love this book so much, I’ve been harassing my friends to read it. It was my 2016 Christmas present. On Christmas noon, I sat in my room, thinking about what I would treat myself to and thought, ‘I would get myself a book’. Lo and behold, before that night ran out, my buns of an amazing friend gave me this. Who ever said wishes don’t come true?

The book has a busy cover design with an illustration of what would represent a typical Lagos street; Molués around, people on okadas, street hawkers and fruit vendors. The whole street is set with a theme-park as the backdrop. The book was written as an informal travel guide in Nigeria. The table of contents show that the author didn’t explore the whole country – even though that would be herculean to detail in a single book. The states visited, which served as the heading for each chapter of the book were limited to only the north and southern part of Nigeria. No Eastern state or Western state was used as a main section of the book, except for Lagos, which is where she stayed and the biggest metropolis in the country, and West Africa at large, so that was inevitable.

Her writing style is informal and has the feel of the prose of a contemporary blogger. She wields a subtle humour in the detailing of her experiences in Nigeria as well as an elegant kind of casual honesty in narrating her ordeals. She is quite simplistic in her narrative and doesn’t try to laden ideas with unnecessary metaphors and descriptives. It wasn’t intended to be a flattering account of Nigeria as some tourist haven, written to patronise or perhaps, lure an uninformed world to come and visit. As much as the author is Nigerian who currently lives in the UK, she was objective in expressing her encounters.

I appreciate the fact that, while she was talking about different states and places she visited, she still gave a somewhat ‘political commentary’ (for lack of a better description) as a subtext to the gist of her book; an exploration of Nigeria.

We got to meet and interact with the author’s perception of reality, even though it wasn’t strongly expressed. We can see that she doesn’t have a strong and overbearing personality and isn’t very outspoken. She’s not hell bent on winning every encounter she has.

It is evident that the book was written to a foreign audience, as simple pidgin words were italicized and further explained in parenthesis. Being that it’s a travel-guide-style written book, it should be expected that that its intended audience would be foreigners. Notwithstanding, a resident Nigerian can (and should) enjoy this book in its full glory being that, in a lot of ways, they would be ‘foreigners’ to some of the states she visited. It would have been lovely if, at the beginning of each chapter, sketch maps of each state she was visiting was illustrated, so that, the intended audience (and all readers at large) can appreciate how far she had to move around in order to gift us with this beautiful work.

It’s the first travel-guide-style book I’ve read and currently stands as the best for me. It was a brilliant read and would not only recommend this to all of my friends, but would read it again.

Disappointingly, I couldn’t find the book on Konga and Jumia stores or even Cassava Republic’s online store. However, you can find it on Amazon. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your copy now!

Yours with a quill.



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