Review by Deji Yesufu
(Published in the Nigerian Tribune of 30th March 2017)
For the literary inclined and those who appreciate good prose and well written story lines, Lucky James’ Tales from Our Past is a refreshing break from the dull reading that is almost becoming a regular in Nigerian literary space these days. In the collection, James presents the reader 15 short stories that tell the ordinary day-to-day life of an average Nigerian.
From the care-free primary school pupil, to the busy and overworked single mother who must juxtapose domestic duties with a professional career, James casts creative writing in a mold that is distinctive of a masterful writer, and that is no wild exaggeration. Since Soyinka and Achebe, many brilliant Nigerians of the younger generation have doubtless produced exceptional writing; still, James’ Tales from Our Past is unique.
The book oscillates between the sublime and the ordinary. It brings the reader to the height of joy and laughter in some stories but plunges us into the depth of thoughts and sometimes tears in others, as the stories paint to us the reality of a Nigerian society that is hell bent on frustrating its people. The stories are dreadfully real, honest and practical. They unveil the vulnerable dimension in many of us—such vulnerability that we do everything to cover up in public. Everyone can identify with the stories in the book because every one of us will find certain aspects of our own lives being retold in the book.
The greatest strength of Lucky James’ literary work is its vocabulary. If you desire to have a book that will improve your English, I recommend the book to you. James’ writing will sometimes climb the zenith of English vocabulary that will require even the experts to consult a dictionary. At other times, he drafts pedestrian words into such vivid and moving scenarios.
For our young secondary school pupils, whose Achilles’ heel is essay writing, the book offers you enough creative writing that if you could pattern your writing after, your “A” will be stamped sure in your finals. Parents who are intent on getting their children and/or wards to master English composition should have them read the book. I hope sincerely that James’ work is honoured at the highest literary awards in this country because it is worth it.
My best story in the book is “Two Unfettered Adults”. It is a story of romance crafted in a way that would not upset the religious sense of the reader, while at the same time, reflecting the reality of how Nigerians still endeavour to love despite the harsh economic realities in the country. My hope is that that story makes it to the thriving Nigerian film industry because, if it is shot well, it will gross a lot of money for the producers.
A good book review will require some constructive criticism. This reviewer finds very little to critic in the writing itself. Except for one or two words marred by printer’s error. I recommend it heartily to the Nigerian public to read and I hope you get a copy in the nearest bookstore in your town.
Obtain copies of this book from Booksellers, Dugbe, Ibadan; University of Ibadan Bookshop; and UCH College Bookshop
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