Ronke, Simi and Boo are inseparable mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though they don’t all see it that way.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion-career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers yet again to her ‘urban vibe’.
When Isobel, a lethally glamourous friend from their past, arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them
Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious that 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 just have repeated itself.
First things first, huge, massive thanks to Alison Barrow for sending me a proof copy of Wahala, whipping up quite a storm on social media, this is going to be one popular read when it publishes in January. Wahala, a word I was previously unfamiliar with, means trouble and what an apt title for this book.
Ronke, Boo and Simi are best friends since university. Strong, independent women doing their thing. All mixed race – British / Nigerian, all holding different opinions about this. Ronke embraces her Nigerian heritage, the culture, the food and the men, while Simi and Boo have less strong views on their Nigerian routes, living in London the 3 women are at various stages in life. Enter Isobel and old school friend of Simi’s from Nigeria, strikingly beautiful and keen to join this group. Friendly, outgoing and generous she is eager to learn about each woman and be a part of their lives.
But all is not as it seems, trouble is on the horizon and this strong female friendship group finds itself rocked to the core. A compelling read, Wahala was a book that I was happy to read, happy to let me be distracted from other things and enjoy a relaxing time engrossed in this book. Contemporary and engaging I particularly liked Ronke as a character, but Simi’s fashion interests also appealed. Boo was struggling and this was tangible in the writing and as such I found it harder to warm to her. Isobel, what to say about Isobel, I was impressed with the way the book was written, allowing the reader small insights into her character which were absent to the other protagonists. Meaning I read this book with a sense of foreboding, some suspicion about what was to come and this created an excellent sense of suspense.
Themes of race, mixed race, skin colour and identity were central to this book but I also liked the role of fathers here, in terms of Ronke seeking a Nigerian man to replace her deceased father, while for Simi and Boo their more complicated relationships with their dads impacted their choice of man. Food was key, with Ronke being a foodie who really embraced her Nigerian culture in cooking and dining, but also nurtured those she loved with food.
This book was written in the third person with chapters devoted to one of the three main characters, this worked well as a way of introducing the characters and I enjoyed this progression through the book although often their stories merged as the book progressed. This was an original read which I found to be a compelling character driven novel which I enjoyed immensely and would highly recommend.
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. Her debut novel Wahala is inspired by a long lunch with friends. It will be published around the world and is due to be turned into a major TV serial. Nikki lives in Dorset with her husband and two standard Schnauzers.