Review: Waiting for an Angel, Helon Habila

waiting-for-an-angel Love Poems, the first part of this book, won Habila the Caine Prize for African fiction. It is indeed a good narrative, and Waiting for an Angel is an attempt to enlarge the story, telling us were Lomba came from and what he was doing before he was imprisoned in a hellish Nigerian prison.

Habila’s various characters who twist and twirl around Lomba, the central poet and narrator, are all likeable and engaging. The historical context, namely Nigeria’s early-eighties political unrest, along with well-described ghetto scenes from Lagos, is satisfying, but the overall narrative does not hold very tight and may at times feel difficult to follow. One gets the impression that the author was under pressure to turn a strong short story into a novel because much of the narrative that follows Love Poems does not have the same lyrical quality and feels forced.

This is the first novel of a promising writer embarking on an odyssey in the footsteps of other Nigerian greats like Ben Okri, Chinua Achebe, and Wole Soyinka. – Hamish Hamilton

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