Ikhide reviews Roses and Bullets by Akachi Ezeigbo

Ikhide reviews Roses and Bullets by Akachi Ezeigbo

I won’t lie, reading Adimora-Ezeigbo’s latest offering was pure torture. The book sent me to sleep each time I opened it on Adunni’s Kindle. I stopped reading it halfway; I won’t be back to it. Life is too short to be miserable.  I tried, I really did, but I could not get past the clinical aridity of this book. This is one deadly boring book. Reading it makes watching paint dry an exhilarating experience.

Why did I stop reading the book? Well, it reads like a neatly typed, fastidiously edited memorandum penned by a humorless civil servant who is used to writing government white papers for the Kremlin. It is relentlessly edited, stripped of every conceivable emotion, with every joy of reading wrung and bleached out of every word until the reader’s eyes beg for sleep – or death. This book should be an instrument of torture in police stations. The victim will confess to an imaginary crime just to be allowed to rest. I kept rubbing my eyes and falling asleep. All insomniacs should skip Valium and buy this book; they will be cured. This tome is borne on stilted clinical prose, a meandering tale that seems reluctant to make a point, any point.

Why was this book written? What new insights does it offer on the Nigerian civil war? How does this book improve upon the silence? Other than it is about the Nigerian civil war, I have no idea what the reader should take away from this book. The clinical antiseptic prose violently strips the novel of ambiance or atmosphere. I could not imagine Biafra; I could not imagine Nigeria, not with this book. Not even the mention of Kingsway Supermarket could drag me back to those years. Any writer worth his or her salt should be able to describe the unique smell of Kingsway and bring tears to the eyes of memory. The Nigerian civil war was a unique era, a sad time in our history that requires an expert hand to capture  the sights, smells, and songs of that horrid period.

This plodding overweight non-story suffers from a poor design, well, actually from no design; it does not lay the context for the story and anyone new to the horrors of Biafra is well advised to go elsewhere first. There is no over-arching vision, and the characters are so inchoate and forgettable, I cannot remember any of them, can’t tell them apart. And this brings me to my pet peeve. Adimora-Ezeigbo goes to great lengths to italicize and explain indigenous terms like ikpi nku, chinchin, ube, udara, etc, I imagine in a bid to reach and keep a wider audience beyond her clan. I have a huge problem with this habit among African writers. They all need a healthy dose of self-confidence. In their works they are always italicizing egusi and ugali. I say, tell your story; stop italicizing our way of life. Let the reader do the research. Besides that is what Google is for. I have never seen sauerkraut in italics.

The Nigerian Civil War is a hugely important topic and it is a crying shame that many Nigerians have no idea of the enormity of that horror that visited us.  A search on “Nigeria Biafra” on amazon.com yielded hundreds of hits. Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is a good book for those who want to read everything about whatRoses and Bullets is not about. I have a review of it here. There are many contentious issues that Adichie brings up – and there is no shortage of robust debate about them. That is what a book should do. Dan Obi Auduche also has a helpful bibliography of eighty books on the Biafran war here. Adichie’s book has a helpful reference list of thirty books. Where Awduche’s list is focused on books directly about the war, Adichie’s has a broader focus. Virtually all the books directly on the war on Adichie’s list are also on Awduche’s list. It would have been helpful to see the reference list Adimora-Ezeigbo drew upon for her research. My favorite essay on Biafra by the way is My Biafran Eyes by Okey Ndibe, that irrepressible owner of words. You may feast on it freely on Guernica here.

And oh, by the way, Roses and Bullets was published in Nigeria by Jalaa Writers Collective. Do not bother clicking on the link, the website of this publishing house has been suspended. Are we a serious people or what?

So tell me, I would dearly love to hear from my readers. Have you read this book or any other on the Nigerian civil war. Do you have any? Why do you like it? Share…

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Editor’s note. This article is strictly the opinion of the reviewer. NS welcomes all honest reviews.



17 thoughts on “Ikhide reviews Roses and Bullets by Akachi Ezeigbo” by Ikhide (@ikhide)

  1. Ikhide, you should really have finished the reading notwithstanding if you want to give an honest review of the book. I wouldn’t take this as a review. This article reads like an assassinating piece on the book. It is more of an opinion about what you think the book is even when you have not gone through all its pages.

    1. @josephomotayo, he has given his honest review. He an’t really be forced to finish the book so as to give a review. The fact that he was unable to finish reading it is testament enough… Besides, he is not the first person to say the book is not interesting.

    2. A review is primarily the opinion of the reader of a piece. Academics may then go on to a critical analysis if they so wish.

      1. Simple! You don’t like it –

  2. Murder One. Kai! Pa(stor) Ikhide, U ehn…Chei! I wonder if Prof has read this review. I bet she has. Hmm…

    As for me, I’m not big on Biafran Stories, but I read Half of a Yellow Sun, and I reviewed it here: http://www.naijastories.com/2011/06/half-of-a-yellow-sun-a-review/

    Again, Chei!

    1. Ray,
      Isn’t this the same book Jeff spoke glowingly about sometimes in June this year in an interview with prof herself? o ga o. I cant wait to read more responses to Ikhide’s review cos I can see a review war brewing here o!

  3. I don’t think this is how to review a book. You can’t afford to be too personal when you offer your view about the good and bad of a literary work. You are supposed to be objective so that people reading your review can tell whether they would enjoy the book or not.

  4. Pa Ikhide,
    This is a blatantly honest and engagingly discouraging review. I have not read the book but I dont want to again! *sighs* You sure finished the revered prof but I do think, like Chemo wrote, this is way too personal. But knowing you and your down-to-earth analytical mind, I wont bother to say more.
    Nice, truthful review.

  5. I’d hoped to read the book – the title sounded interesting but alas; thank God I didn’t bother.

    Hmmm. I don’t think the review is personal – maybe the reviewer’s just blunt.

    Whatever. Write better stories.

  6. I wonder what people mean when they this is personal? Is a review not the personal opinion of the reader?

    Anyway, I still intend to read this book one day and make up my own mind.

  7. I do not know what is it with Ikhide Ikheola? Most of his reviews are usually killing. He usually generates bad publicity for books. This review is not an exception. I have never read a perfect book. And I am using this medium to challenge anyone who has read one to come up and say so. I believe every book has their own faults but the author must be commended for creative tenacity and literary perseverance. It is not fair for anybody regardless of their status (acclaimed or real) to draw out daggers and murder other people’s writings. I am pissed off by the way some people come out to defend such murderous attempts to kill writings of other people other than those of their cronies. If you are a writer and you understand what goes into writing a creative piece, you should know that book assassination in the name of reviews should jointly be condemned. Reviewing a book to the extent that prospective readers feel dissuaded is not just it.

  8. He kept raining bullets on to-whom-it-may-concern from top to bottom. This seems too cynical for my liking.

  9. I saw the book at the Enugu airport today and didnt buy it but with this murderous review i am going to get the book bcos the reviewer here didnt say exactly what he didnt like about the book. If it is for the translation of explaination of native word, even Adiche whom he praised here did a lot of it in the Half of a yellow sun. I believe that the right thing to do in a review is to make references to the book while explaining the likes and dislike. I dont want to say that the reviewer has some personal paranoiance with Ezigbo, hence i will buy the book and read it to confirm for myself. It is good to read badly written books, spot what makes them bad and eschew them.

  10. My opinion of this review is that Ikhide has honestly, in his own opinion said what he feels about Roses and bullets. This review won’t stop me from reading the book because Ikhide has said his, what about me?

  11. I am aware that the purpose of writing a review is to expose the would-be reader to the content and style of a book and to basically place it on a visible pedestal in terms of ratings, personal or otherwise. I thank Ikhide for the above review of Prof. Ezeigbo’s book however bias and myopic it appears. He has saved me the pain of going out of my way to read the book, though I may just see for myself. In any case, I think story-lines based on the Biafran war have been over flogged and can only be re-written from a fresh point of view. However, may I point out the fact that italics are commonly used by writers all the time and they are meant to depict words that are not English and would need to be researched for better understanding. I have seen them used by very intelligent authors like Chimamanda, Jeffery Archer, Forson and the list goes on, I therefore do not agree that the use of strange words in italics is peculiar to Prof. Ezeigbo, however I think that writers should desist from explaining the meaning of such words except in a very interesting and inconspicuous manner.

  12. A good writer doen`t take a book review as the final option,,,, everyone has their like/dislike that`s why we have diffrence genre in literally world.

    dont take his word as final do your self a favour by reading good book and bad book that how you become icon. make your own review.

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