Throwing stones at ‘The Lady of the Glass House” – Olukorede S. Yishau

If you read just the prologue, you are likely to immediately conclude that The Lady of the Glass House is about Apeke Christianah Townsend— the strong woman behind a marketing giant, A’Kore.

Well, by the time you get to the first chapter, there is no trace of Apeke. And that is when the race through the pages in search of Apeke begins. But you have to pass through Kolawole, Bolarinwa, Babatunde, Adegunle, Reverend Thomas Howard, Babajimi, Babawande, Timothy and Reverend Titus Townsend before Apeke can be found. All these people are directly or indirectly connected to Apeke in Oluwabusayo Madariola’s fascinating debut.
The first few lines of The Lady of the Glass House, are tantalising, but that is before seeming distractions capable of making the impatient to look elsewhere set in. In no time, however, the going gets better and better in this engaging novel.
Apeke, the first person we meet on the pages of this work, is linked to a white man, Sam Townsend who before dying in the early 1890s or thereabout said a prayer for his generations to come: “Our generations to come will prosper wherever they go. Wherever the soles of their feet shall thread upon, God will give it to them as inheritance. They will know what to do per time, for the Lord God almighty will Himself lead them.”
Sam’s son, Timothy, dreams and sees some words in a language he does not understand, but is able to write down with the tonal marks on them. By sheer luck he comes across Babatunde, who is in England to further his studies. Babatunde comes with a book with tonal marks similar to the one in Timothy’s dream. It turns out the language is Yoruba and through Babatunde’s interpretation, Timothy realises he is supposed to go to the Yoruba part of Nigeria on a missionary assignment.
After a short spell in Akure, he and his colleague come across a grandmother, a mother and her deformed son, who will later be named Titus Townsend. The mother, Moremi, and grandmother are running away from their kinsmen who want to sacrifice Titus to their gods because of his deformity. To save Titus and Moremi after the grandmother is killed by their kinsmen, Timothy takes them to Lagos and later to London. Moremi and Timothy after some years in England confess love to each other and get married, making Timothy Titus’s stepfather.
Years later, Apeke, (now married to JJ, a descendant of Sam Townsend), find herself battling for the soul of a marketing firm she has sweated to build. Men she brings on board as management staff conspire against her and throw stones at her. The opening of the book shows her in a disturbed state ahead of a meeting of the board to decide her fate, with her husband assuring her all will be well. Will she survive and reap from her husband’s forebear’s prayer about his generations always triumphing? The answer lies within the pages of this novel, which spans over 100 years.
The historical exploration is wide ranging. Madariola takes us to the London of the early 1900, the Akure and Southwest Nigeria of the colonial era and the Lagos of today. She displays a good grasp of how things worked at that time.
The University of Ibadan is represented in glowing lights while Ikeja and its environs will jump at you in all its colours and smells in this novel that meanders from one era to the other and one character to the other in such a way that you need full concentration not to lose focus of the plot. Madariola’s shuttle around Lagos gives the feel of Toni Kan’s ‘Carnivorous City’ in which the city of aquatic splendour is laid bare.
Feminism flexes its muscle in this debut, which makes a young woman shatter cultural barriers to be the best she can be. She also shows that love and age have little in common as love can come even at an advanced age.
In addition, racism screams aloud from on the pages of this book, colonialism and Christianity breathe, boardroom politics dominate with its attendant intrigues and acts of betrayal; the virtue in hard work is exalted and taking the leap of faith is celebrated. Endings are neatly tied. And it will be in order to say Madariola has gifted us an impressive debut.

Olukorede S. Yishau is the author of ‘Vaults of Secrets’ and ‘In The Name of Our Father’

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