I requested this book from NetGalley back in August as it looked intriguing – a variation on the theme of “three women meet at university; we look at their lives since”, this focuses on three women of mixed British-Nigerian heritage, a firm friendship group, but the cover makes it clear this is going to be something of a thriller, and it was definitely a page-turner!

Nikki May – “Wahala”

(18 August 2021)

It wasn’t until Bristol (chosen mainly for its distance from home), where she met Ronke and Simi, that she started to feel comfortable in her skin. They were the first mixed-race people she’d ever spoken to and to them, being brown was an asset, not a liability. It meant you could always fit in – with black people, white people and all shades in between. They pitied the poor souls with one solitary culture, who used fake tan (or worse – bleaching cream). They were proud of being half Nigerian and half English. They loved jollof rice and fish finger sandwiches. They had two football teams to support.

Ronke, Simi and Boo have been a strong friendship group since they met at university and each found someone with a similar heritage to bond with. They have had various experiences of their dual heritage, some of them feel more linked to Nigeria than others, and they have different lives now, one young, free and single but wanting to settle down, one very settled into a domesticity she resents, one a high-flyer with a high-flying husband who wants to keep her career and NOT settle down. Two are with White men, one wants to find a good Nigerian man. But they’re all close, don’t share their grievances with each other and are getting along quite nicely … until Isobel comes along. She comes from Simi’s past and definitely Ronke is not keen as she tries to work her way into everyone’s lives. What does she actually want? Different people are told different things, and she has a subtle or not-so-subtle effect on each other their lives and all of their friendships as life progresses. Do older relatives hold the key or are they prejudiced by Isobel’s family background? And what’s with the first scene, showing a woman who has clearly just been attacked – we’re told we’re going four months back but there are so many clues and you really wonder.

As well as the compelling storyline we see what it’s like to be a mixed-heritage Black woman in modern London, a world of microaggressions and obstacles, of being brought in when something’s “urban”, of being assumed about and bossed around, but of finding solace in a Nigerian restaurant that’s almost like being in Nigeria itself. One Black book blogger and her commenter have made the point that the racism and microaggressions the women experience are brushed over somewhat – not something I can really comment about as a White woman but at least, I think, they were there and highlighted and other White reviewers have commented that they learned from them. Mainly this is an excellent story set against a great, believable background, with characters who are all rounded and flawed, with fabulous recipes in the back of the book for jollof rice, etc., and I’m very much looking forward to what this author does next.

Thank you to Random House UK for selecting me to read this book in return for an honest review. “Wahala” was published on 6 January 2022.