Where The Waters Recede promised me a ‘triumph of African storytelling.’ At least that’s what I expected after I read the blurb. This book was sent to me in exchange for a Lipglossmaffia-esque review and that’s what I’ll be dishing out.
Before you go any further, have you read Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, you should read my review of it HERE. It may or may not provide context for this review, I just wanted to plug it in because it seems to rile some people up.
Essential book info
Category: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Apex Publishing UK
Published: March 2019
“Where The Waters Recede” Blurb
“Omitirin, a young Yoruba priestess who is captured by Fulani bandits and sold into slavery, fights to return to her family. A ruthless warlord plots for more power and glory, and a heartbroken English missionary hopes for redemption in the dark African heartland.
It is 1826, and the British have arrived. As their paths cross, all three struggle to make sense of their lives and this one article of faith, while the old Oyo empire collapses around them.”
Should You Bother Reading “Where The Waters Recede”?
African historical fiction when done right can be one of the most beautiful things because goddammnit Africans have stories to tell. It’s in our genes, our way of life, how we pass on those stupid outdated traditions and how we keep the culture intact.
Remember KINTU by Jennifer Makumbi? Stories are African and Africans are stories. So imagine my pain when this novel disappointed me.
It’s taking all of my maturity to ignore the book cover, probably one of the worst covers I have ever seen in my entire life.
Where The Waters Recede is divided into four parts and told from the point of view of three main characters; Omitirin, Graham and Balogun. I’m going to try my best to keep this as spoiler-free as I can because contrary to popular opinion, I’m a nice lady.
Omitirin’s part in Oyo Kingdom was my favourite. It covers 45% of the novel and does a good job of pulling you into the story until that part ends and this book goes downhill fast.
I struggled with a lot of inconsistencies. Omitirin’s portion of the novel is a first-person narrative and by my calculations, would have died before Nigeria became a country so there are some words that shouldn’t be in her vocabulary.
Bean cakes, for example, it was irritating to see bean cakes a lot, why couldn’t the writer just say akara? I know language has to be adjusted so that the Western audience can understand some words but it’s disrespectful to people like me. Nigerians.
Little errors like saying, the women devoted to Yemoja knew how to treat fibroids. Fibroids in 18th century Oyo Kingdom? Really sir? It almost as if the narrator was way too advanced to be in that time period.
Another thing that threw me off is that it was so easy to write in a Yorkshire accent but all the dialogue from the motherland was in fluent English. Obviously, the book can’t be written in Yoruba but there should have been more Yoruba in them.
The chants by the Ifa priests and songs should have all been in Yoruba. It would have added more flair. In English, it just feels so bleeh.
Also, the writer has just made my point that male writers are pretty shit at writing about sex, erotic or rape. For example, a man has been raping a woman from her teenage years till this scene below where she is forty years old.
“He called me into his inner room after that and had his way with me, repeatedly. He was forceful and gentle at the same time, angry yet sad. For the first time in all the years I had lain with him, he was attentive towards me. I moaned out with a pleasure I had never experienced before and it left devasted with shame that I could be like this. He ordered that I returned to him the next day and the day after that. It was as though he was trying to tell me something. It was almost as though he was trying to tell me that he was sorry and urging me not t be sad again.”Where The Waters Recede
Can you help me make sense of this?
Overall, it was a miserable and disappointing reading experience for me. Would you learn about Yoruba mythology and a bit about the trans-Saharan slave trade and the Church Missionary Society and the end of Oyo empire and Samuel Ajayi Crowther? The answer is a big fat yes. But the problem is, I can also learn that by Googling.
About The Author
Rotimi Olaniyan has a Doctorate in Business Administration and a literary penchant for African and diasporic historical narratives that he argues have not yet been sufficiently told. Those that highlight important stories through the lenses, themes, characters and plots that explore the shared history of Africans and the rest of the world.
He spends his time between Lagos, where he wanders along the beach, bare feet, South Africa’s Western Cape, where he crawls vineyards and Nottingham, UK, where he lectures Marketing at the Nottingham Business School and tends a modest garden on weekends. ‘Where the Waters Recede’ is his first novel.
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