Book Review: Eghosa Imasuen's "Fine Boys"

by - 11:19

I'm just going to come out and say it, I absolutely loved Fine Boys. This is Nigeria ... in the 90s told in three parts: Year One (January 1993 - March 1994), Year Two (March 1994 - March 1995), Year Three (June 1995 - Eternity). This isn't my generation (I was still pretty young when this book starts), but if you ever wanted to know what campus life in Nigeria in the 90s during the era of structural adjustment/unstable government was like, this is your book. 

Fine Boys is Nigerian author, Eghosa Imasuen's second novel. Ewaen, the narrator, is sixteen from a middle class Nigerian family, waiting to start his medical degree at the University of Benin. This is the story of what Ewaen and his friends experience while at university - growing up, making friends, meeting girls, falling in love, learning to smoke and drink, party, and occasionally study. Amidst all of this, is the ever-threatening presence of confraternities (deadly secret cults at universities) trying to recruit "fine boys" like Ewaen and his friends. There's more than one cult on campus and there are conflicts between these cults (on what seems like a daily basis), which affects Ewaen, his friends, and really campus life (to be honest, cults are still very much present in Nigerian universities, but it was in the 1990s that they expanded dramatically and also became a lot more violent). What makes Fine Boys even better is that while all this is going on, it doesn't ignore the state Nigeria was socio-economically and politically. The period the book is set was a difficult time in Nigeria's history - strikes at universities leading to universities being shut for months, teachers going unpaid and selling course material to students in order to pass, students protesting, political instability, the historic annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections, and MKO Abiola's arrest to name a few. 

There are many things I loved about Fine Boys.  From its use of Nigerian English (NEPA has taken light) and pidgin ("yansh" is arse/bum/butt/whatever you call a "behind"), to its portrayal of actual events that happened in Nigeria, and it also showing how despite the issues happening on and off campus, boys will still be boys (doing as little work as possible, while really just trying to have as much fun as possible). 

While I suspect many people who went to Nigerian universities during this period (and I'm sure even now), would be able to relate on so many levels with this. I do think it's an excellent book for anyone who also doesn't know much about Nigerian campus life, or even the state of the country during this period. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I would highly recommend it not only for all the reasons above, but also because it's a beautifully written story. 

4.5 out of 5

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