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Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta - Review

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Where did I get it? I'd heard some buzz about it on book Twitter so when I saw it on Kindle for £1.89 I bought it. 

What's it about? The book spans quite a few years in the life of Ijeoma, starting with the Biafran War when she is a small child, and the death of her dad in a bombing raid. Ijeoma's grief stricken mother sends her to live with a grammar school teacher and his wife, who treat her pretty badly and make her live in a hovel outside. Ijeoma is Igbo, and Christian, but she meets a girl of a similar age, Amina, whose family are all dead, who is Hausa, and Muslim. They share the hovel, and start a sexual relationship. When it's discovered, Ijeoma is sent home in disgrace and her mother starts to discipline her with the Bible, telling her that her love for Amina is an abomination. Ijeoma doesn't agree, and we see her come to terms with herself and her faith as she grows older. 

I liked the scope of the novel, and I feel like quite a few books by Nigerian authors are a bit the same - they're not contained to small time periods. I really liked Ijeoma, she's utterly likeable. 

What age range is it for? While this isn't a Young Adult novel, it is of course about a young girl, so I think that for a discerning older teen, it would be really interesting and enjoyable. I mention some of the more adult stuff below, so take care. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but take care of yourself for anti-LGBTQ talk as described above. It's utterly believable and in keeping with the character of Ijeoma's mother and their religious beliefs, but it can be triggering and painful to read. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Of course! I liked how the war between the Igbo and the Hausa was explained, too. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and it's somewhat explicit in terms of body parts, but done in a really beautiful way. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, since the novel opens with a war 

Are there swear words? No

What criticisms do I have? None really. I liked the book and found it pretty easy to read. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. It's nice to read about LGBTQ+ people in a culture that isn't Western

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was one of the first books on my Kindle and I'll be honest, the cover grabbed me, hah

What other books is it like? It reminded me a lot of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, given the setting of Nigeria and the backdrop of the Biafran War. 

How many stars? Four out of five. Really good read. 

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