Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Wahala by Nikki May, a book you’re going to hear plenty about in the coming months. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Doubleday for my review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, bookstagrammers Elizabeth at libcreads and Anita at booksinherhands.
About the Book
See me, see trouble…
Ronke, Simi, and Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though they don’t all choose to see it like that.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they look to the future – Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Simi supposedly wants a child (well, her husband does); Boo is frustrated and unfulfilled, caught in a whirl of school runs and lustful dreams. When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.
As cracks in their friendship begin to appear, it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may have just repeated itself.
Format: Hardcover (384 pages) Publisher: Doubleday
Publication date: 6th January 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Find Wahala on Goodreads
Described as ‘a sharp, modern take on friendship, ambition, culture, and betrayal’, Wahala certainly lives up to its title which means ‘trouble’ in Yoruba.
There’s a Sex and the City vibe to the get-togethers of Simi, Boo and Ronke in bars and restaurants around London in the first part of the book. Being a low maintenance girl myself and the opposite of a social butterfly, I couldn’t quite relate to the obsession with fashion, the gossip over cocktails and the boozy lunches. I guess Ronke was the character I found most engaging perhaps because she seemed more down-to-earth. Her cookery skills helped and the inclusion of some of her recipes for traditional Nigerian food at the back of the book was a nice touch. I liked the way the author explored the dynamics between the three friends and the pressures on those friendships that arise as the book progresses.
The ups and downs of Simi’s, Boo’s and Ronke’s relationships and the dilemmas they face – in some cases of their own making – are ones that could happen in any partnership, not just between couples of different ethnicity: competing career aspirations, different attitudes towards parenthood or simply feeling weighed down by domestic responsibilities. I have to say what follows seemed to me a case of ‘women behaving badly’ – Ronke being the honourable exception. The men in their lives were positive saints in comparison, especially the lovely Didier. I even had sympathy for Ronke’s boyfriend, Kayode, he of the poor time-keeping, obsessive support for Arsenal football club and fridge stocked only with beer and past its use-by date milk.
As soon as Isobel arrives on the scene with her demand ‘I want to know everything’ it becomes pretty clear her motive is not a genuine desire for friendship. ‘Isobel was good at collecting secrets, not so great at keeping them.’ She becomes an insidious presence in the friends’ lives and the catalyst for the trouble referred to in the title. This was the strongest part of the book for me. The reader sees, although Boo, Simi and Ronke do not, that for reasons of her own, Isobel is an expert in playing on their insecurities, doubts and frustrations – and, at times, their naivety – encouraging them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t have; the equivalent of waking up with a hangover and wishing you hadn’t drunk so much the night before, except with much, much more serious consequences. As the fallout from Isobel’s actions play out, the book builds to an unexpectedly dramatic and explosive finish, one of those conclusions to a book that forces you to go back and re-read the prologue.
Wahala is a deft exploration of the fragile nature of friendship and how easily people can be manipulated.
In three words: Vibrant, insightful, quirky
Try something similar: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
About the Author
Born in Bristol and raised in Lagos, Nikki May is Nigerian-British. At twenty, she dropped out of medical school, moved to London, and began a career in advertising, going on to run a successful agency. Nikki lives in Dorset with her husband and two standard Schnauzers.