Goodbye Lucille

“Goodbye Lucille” by Segun Afolabi (Nigeria)

Review

Readers were pretty much equally divided about this book, with half the group enjoying it, while the other half found it disappointing. Everyone agreed that it was an easy read, written in a clear language, and that the story was well crafted. They also liked the fact that it gave them a strong sense of time and place, both for the parts set in Berlin and those in Jos, Nigeria. Some readers found the story engaging from the start describing it as vivid and intimate, whereas others struggled until nearly half way through thinking that the story wasn’t really going anywhere. Some readers didn’t like the protagonist finding him passive and irritating, whereas others enjoyed seeing him gain clarity in his life as the story evolved. The group was again divided as regards the other characters in the book, with some loving the eclectic cast while others found themselves unable to warm to any of them. Overall, it averaged a 6.6 out of 10.

Synopsis

It’s Berlin, mid-1980s. Vincent is an overweight, vaguely unhappy photographer who lives in a small flat in a house owned by a demented landlady. His neighbours and friends include a former colonel turned stiletto-wearing transsexual, a Kurdish refugee, a Nigerian playboy and various ‘artistic types’. Vincent kind of misses Lucille, the girl he left behind in London; he has not spoken to his maternal uncle for years and somewhat resents his older brother’s success. He isn’t doing very much at all. Then a chance encounter in a bar, the murder of a local politician and an urgent letter from his aunt shake up his world and Vincent finally has to stop slacking and take some control.

Building on themes explored in his collection of short stories, “A Life Elsewhere”, Afolabi presents a Germany of immigrants and insiders both. This is a first novel about the personal politics of identity and a gentle exploration of the nature of true love.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 17 – “The Human Condition” (Feb – Jun 2013)

“Hustle” by Will Ferguson (Canada) *
“The Gaze” by Elif Shafak (Turkey)
“Goodbye Lucille” by Segun Afolabi (Nigeria)
“The Lake” by Banana Yoshimoto (Japan)
“The Sickness” by Alberto Barrera Tyszka (Venezuela) 

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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