'Swallow' by Sefi Atta


The 37th State Online

In Swallow, Sefi Atta tells the tale of Tolani Alao, a young woman who resides in Lagos in the 80s, grudgingly partaking in the hustle and bustle of the city because she has to make a living and send money to her mother back home. Tolani’s life takes a hit when she and her borderline-nutcase of a flat mate, Rose, lose their jobs within weeks of each other and are faced with a chance to make quick money.


What Atta does in Swallow is bring to the forefront issues beleaguering African women; the pressure to get married, the vulnerability to sexual harassment and the arrogance of flagrant predators, the ravenous nature of poverty.


In parts of the book, I found the dual-narrative style (told in parts by Tolani and in other parts by her mother, Arike) dull; the descriptive sometimes went on for too long and became bland – the same issue I had with A Bit of Difference (reviewed below). Atta’s books often end abruptly, leaving the reader with unanswered questions and wonderings; her books never end the way you wish they would – Swallow was no difference in this respect.

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