A REVIEW OF SEFI ATTA’S EVERYTHING GOOD WILL COME
A REVIEW OF SEFI ATTA’S EVERYTHING GOOD WILL COME
The Novel Everything Good Will Come, authored by Sefi Atta, is a narration of the consciousness of women as seen through the eyes of a growing child. The narration is in first person. The writer made it a point of duty to present the central character’s consciousness boldly as she matures to become conscious of the prevalent conditions that plagued the African Woman. The novelist used the historical knowledge of a post colonial Nigerian Experience as narrated by Enitan, the protagonist, who realises the marginalisation of women.
This novel enlightens readers about the happenings of the Nigerian state as well as draws readers into its historical contextual environment and the attendant emotional and structural breakdowns of human relationships. Enitan is born into a Nigerian State riddled with ethnic and religious differences; these religious and ethnic differences are however stirred into cataclysmic emotions when political underpinnings are considered. The narrator’s understanding of the unnecessary creation of the Nigerian state by the colonial masters, without taken cognisance of the ethnic differences prevalent in diverse societies is valid, even in today’s world.
For so many Africans, growing up wasn’t easy; they were made to become “born again” by the wheals of the cane in the name of corporal punishment and discipline. The African child is also left to find out things for him or herself. This leads to questioning the unpredictability of moral upbringing.
Enitan also finds herself struggling with the concept of religion and morality. The incessant conflicts in her family which further heightened the deteriorating health of her sickle-celled brother, who eventually passed on, is worthy of mention. Her mother, an escapist, seeks succour from marginalisation, and a broken marriage, in a white-garment church. She transforms from the once glowing young wife into a “wild Christian”; a strict and unhappy admixture of holiness and bottled-up grievances. But she however still holds on to traditional beliefs as she kills a fowl to secure her daughter’s fertility.
Enitan grows into womanhood under the influence of her carefree childhood friend Sheri who lends her a shoulder in her search of “womanist freedom”. She is made to realise the limitations of the female gender; a situation where she is reserved for the status quo from childhood: a shallow education limited by dreams of Childbirth, Wedding, and Graduation, finally, a ridiculous transfer to the royal office of the kitchen.
Governmental issues are on the front burner of the novel as she harps on the manipulation of the constitution by politicians and the ruling hands. The author also makes worthy mention of the inconsistence of transition. Political will is being transferred from the hands of corrupt politicians to the hands of heart-hardened military coup-plotters who are bent on arresting, maiming and eliminating hapless civilians. The military barge into the hallowed gates of leadership, their reason being that the politicians were corrupt but their “reign” was just as uncensored, unchecked and unencumbered.
Hassan, a brigadier Sheri gets involved with, represents not only the power and opulence of military rulers in the military regimes but also their chauvinism. In fact, he portrayed the archetypal male who limits the aspirations of the woman; who sees them as slaves and “commodifies” or “thingifies” them.
The novel Everything Good Will Come also extrapolates on the life of the Artist and how the economy determines their livelihood. The artist is left to wallow in poverty amid supple creative skills. They are not totally accepted in a society where money is a basis for cooperation, friendship and societal acceptance, all thanks to the politicians. The artist is emotional and caring, but most importantly, sympathetic about the sufferings of the populace, that is what led Uncle Alex, Enitan father’s friend, in the first part of the novel 1971 to join the civil war. Uncle Alex will remind readers of one of Nigeria’s greatest poets, Christopher Okigbo. But in the same vein, the Artist also leads a careless life, as Mike Mukoro reflects an artist who not only engaged in the act of creative drawings and fine sculpting but also involved in flirtatious ardour. A replicated trend of many-a-creative hand which Chaucer Geoffrey, the great English poet, is one.
Another inerasable part of the work Everything Good Will Come is the showcase of Lagos Life in both “the good old” and “the bad old days”. The socio- economic travails of the middle class lagosian who likes to live in exquisite places and purchase suspectedly expensive commodities.
Activism is also a constant message in the work, as a female character plays her role in national emancipation. Amidst her sufferings she forges ahead and wins new coverts of which one of them was Enitan. She however admits that it is not worth dying for a country that does not appreciate the developmental activities of her citizens. The Nigerian Prison Life is another serious issue mentioned in this work. Here, women are treated like rags and broken teaspoons. This perhaps might make the reader pardon the author’s strong feministic tendencies.
The Novel, Everything Good Will Come is however not without its shortcomings. Firstly, the explicit use of history in the work is one thing that may not interest someone who is conversant with the bulk of rather unpleasant history Nigeria has added to her resume over the years. The writer does not allow the first person narrator to give historical insights but does so through an interventionist mode, an outright disobedience of the tenet that a writer should as much as possible present issues and historical guidance through another audience. Literature is a reflection and a reconstruction of stable and unstable historical facts, but it is not a textbook study of Nigerian history from 1971.
The novel also came to such an abrupt end that one will wonder if that is all. This is however a new trend with the new literary writers of this generation; they leave readers to complete the illusions, the happiness and the sorrows. I believe they also immortalise their characters leaving one to wonder if Enitan is not the radical womanist besides one.
The work is however not rid of unconventional, seemingly compound words that can neither be said to be purposeful or creative. These words include ‘awoman’, ‘loveshis’, ‘timetraffic’, ‘thennothing’, ‘tortoiseshell’, ’setfrom’,’ reasonfor’, to mention a few. This can be attributed to of a lack of proper editing or incompetent copyeditors.
Sefi Atta is a writer of riveting descriptive powers, having won The First Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature with this debut novel; but perhaps it will take a second and a third novel for her to induct herself into the Hall of Fame for African Womanist Writers.