« Shortly after I was born, my dad relocated to the UK, leaving my mum and I behind. Apart from pictures and telephone calls, I didn’t really know my dad. My mum, however, was my world until I turned five-years-old and my dad came to take her away from me. She dropped me off at my grandparents’ house in Ibadan and relocated to the UK with my dad. Mama, as I used to call my grandma, was so happy to have me, in fact it was a dream come true for her but a nightmare for me. Despite loving Mama to bits, I found it difficult to adjust to my new life, and her efforts to fill in the void proved abortive (…) As days turned into weeks and months into years, Mama became the centre of my world, with only occasional reminiscence of Mummy’s love. »
Grace, a young independent woman living in the UK, comes to Lagos only to embark on a thrilling adventure that starts in the streets of Lagos and ends up in London, in a totally different picture.
Dosun Adeleye’s novel is the story of this character’s life: a fearless, ambitious character nevertheless dominated by the fear of being abandoned as well as by the longing of being cared for. From a complicated childhood spent mostly in her grandparents’ house and far from her parents, to a busy and accomplished professional life, Grace also carries with her a haunting secret.
The motif of the baby “stolen” from its biological father, central in Dosun Adeleye’s novel, is questioned as it refers to the “bigger picture” of this socio-cultural element often present in popular literature and cinema. This bigger picture offers us the portrait of a complicated and sometimes painful love life, in which destiny doesn’t often match the idea of life one had in the first place. What is more, it is not only the notion of destiny that is challenged, but also a certain cliché about “genetic” predestination.
What the reader discovers instead is a dynamic story of a quest for love, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifices, whatever the obstacles. Almost like a modern fairytale, the novel draws not a sweet or overromanticized portrait of the main character, but a story full of fearless hope.
Hearts of Clay by Dosun Adeleye
978- 1916466302 / E-book version
Review by Ioana Danaila
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.