A love story made in London: A review of Lola Aworanti-Ekugo’s “Lagos to London” -Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
Lola Aworanti-Ekugo | Origami – An imprint of Parresia Publishers, 2021 | 23
Lagos to London, the debut novel by Lola Aworanti-Ekugo is a simple, feel-good read that tells the story of Remi Coker and Nnamdi Okonkwo, who leave Lagos in search of education in London and how their paths cross as they navigate the intricacies of life in a foreign land while making choices with far reaching implications for both their futures and the expectations of the families they left back at home.
Remi is from an upper-class Lagos family with the high expectations of her parents hanging around her neck. It is a foregone conclusion that she would study law and come back to work in her parents’ law firm. Anything short of that would be considered a failure. Her entire experience from gaining admission, journeying to London and settling in, is straightforward, with comfort paid for by her parents who hold nothing back to ensure their daughter is comfortable and has all she needs to make them proud.
Nnamdi on the other hand is the hustling young Nigerian from the suburbs of Lagos. Frustrated by the protracted strike by university lecturers, he becomes desolate about the country and his chances of succeeding. And as is often the case, he is consumed by a desire to leave the country and sees no obstacles even though his parents clearly cannot afford it and his father doesn’t even want to hear of such ambitions. It would take both a stubborn will, persistence and some luck, for him to achieve his desire.
Remi and Nnamdi are admitted to the same university and arrive few weeks apart. Naturally, their experiences are markedly different. Through their separate stories, the writer beams some light into the varying experiences of Nigerian immigrants into the UK with economic background often being the difference. From the weather, to making friends, finding accommodation, settling into the rhythms of academic rigor and the choices that must be made across board with the implications they bear, the youngsters find themselves dealing with issues they hardly imagined before boarding the flight in Lagos.
The book also explores self-discovery, and the way the expectations of parents often clash with the personal preferences of their children. In many cases, there is really no clash, rather, a feeling of unfulfillment on the part of the children who go along with the script, fulfil the desires of their parents but silently endure the feeling of emptiness that comes with not doing what they have the most aptitude for.
With most of the characters being young people, it is not surprising to have love, lifestyle, crime, fun, and strong creative energy, in the mix. Some of these will connive to provide the setting for the two main characters, Remi and Nnamdi to meet and birth a friendship that blossoms with time. Though their relationship will be tried by certain circumstances including their different backgrounds and cultures, it manages to hold firm, leading to the happily ever after end to the novel which can be categorized easily as a love story made in London.
Lagos to London, is an easy read and will make exciting reading for young adults. In many ways, it reads like a blog series compiled into a book, sensational, predictable, mundane at times, too slow at some points and pacy at some other. Interestingly Remi, wrote a blog from where the book gets its title with some excepts included in some chapters of the book. It is sectioned into three parts and uncharacteristically for novels, it has both a foreword and a prologue. In many ways, the prologue it must be said, makes it easy to predict the rest of the story, at least the bit on Remi and given that the novel turned out to be not just her story but that of Nnamdi too, a prologue dedicated entirely to Remi felt quite unnecessary.
What may be considered the troughs of the novel are not uncommon with debut novelists. What is undeniable however is the talent and the interest of the writer in telling stories and this book is a good announcement of her presence in the literary horizons of Nigeria. It will be interesting to see what she comes up with next.
-Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, creative writer and social commentator is the author of Believers and Hustlers. He is available on social media at @nzesylva.