Book Review: Wahala by Nikki May

I’d seen ‘Wahala’ on a number of lists of ‘books for 2022’ – so was delighted to be granted an advance review copy by NetGalley.

Here’s the blurb:

Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.

Not all of them choose to 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 to her urban vibe yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous 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 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.
Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

The book starts in a Nigerian restaurant in London – and from the start I felt like the book was an education in Nigerian culture. The three main characters all have dual heritage, with Nigerian fathers – some present, some not. Each of the characters is very different – and I can totally see where comparisons with ‘Sex and The City’ have come from.

Simi’s friend from her youth in Lagos, Nigeria – Isobel – arrives on the scene, and is a whirlwind throwing her cash about and trying to spice up the lives of the three friends in different ways.

However, cracks soon start to appear in the friendship between the three friends – and also their home lives. The book’s title ‘ Wahala’ means ‘trouble’ in Nigerian Pidgin – and that is definitely what Isobel brings, even if it’s not immediately evident.

Boo’s life as a part time stay at home Mum – who has had to take more menial work to fit around her home life – is very well observed. I did feel sorry for her French husband – or ‘tubby hubby’ as Isobel christened him.

Simi has completely upset her father by not being a doctor and pursuing a career in fashion instead – and their interactions were very well written. The visit from her father and step mother was a comedy in itself.

Ronke’s quest to replace her permanently absent father with a Nigerian boyfriend have not historically gone well – and so the others have doubts over whether the flaky Kayode really is ‘ the one’. I really liked Ronke’s relationship with her dental assistant – he was a very good friend to her.

My one tiny niggle is there are some MASSIVE coincidences as the book concludes – and in a country of 206 million inhabitants, with almost 15 million in Lagos alone – it does feel a bit unlikely. But hey – sometimes you have to suspend disbelief about coincidences when it comes to literature!

The book twists and turns, and the build up to the end is not what I expected at all – which was great.

The writing is excellent, and the book really evokes the feeling of Lagos – and also the shared culture that the girls have in the UK. I can see why it’s already been snapped up to be a TV series.

What I particularly loved is the final chapter – which is set a few months after the traumatic events towards the end of the book – but is back in the restaurant where the story commenced – I do love little touches like that.

Overall a really good, interesting, educational and captivating read. Thank you to the published and NetGalley for my ARC. It’s out at the beginning of January 2022 – so not long to wait if you fancy it!

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