A new novel from the winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa
Deola Bello, a 39-year-old Nigerian expatriate in London, is dissatisfied with being single and working overseas. Deola works as a financial reviewer for an international charity, and when her job takes her back to Nigeria in time for her father's five-year memorial service, she finds herself turning her scrutiny inward.
In Nigeria, Deola encounters changes in her family and in the urban landscape of her home, and new acquaintances who offer unexpected possibilities. While there, she must navigate both the expectations of others, and the difference between foreign images of Africa and the realities of contemporary Nigerian life. Deola's urgent, incisive voice captivates and guides us through the intricate layers and vivid scenes of a life lived across continents.
With boldness and refreshing honesty, A Bit of Difference looks at the complexities of our contemporary, globalised world, through a very human lens.
Atta, winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature for Everything Good Will Come (2006), delivers on the promise of her well-received early work with this breakout which is at once an American successor to classic Nigerian literature and a commentary on how the English-speaking world reads Africa. Lagos born Deola Bello enjoys her job in the London office of an international charity organization, but sees how her home country is sold abroad and is all too aware of the Western attitudes that cling to her African friends, like the intellectual Bandele and the born-again Subu, while shaping the perception of her English schoolfellows and American colleagues. But unlike Bandele, Deola still considers herself Nigerian, and a trip home to visit her widowed mother and testy, troubled siblings all coping with the legacy of their autocratic father provides Atta with the opportunity to examine the realities of modern African life, from HIV to the upwardly-mobile Diaspora. Like Teju Cole's Open City, Deola's story is low on drama but rich in life, though Atta's third-person voice makes less for a portrait of a mind in transit than a life caught in freeze-frame, pinned between two continents and radiating pathos. Wholly believable, especially in its nuanced approach to racial identity, the story feels extremely modern while excelling at the novelist's traditional task: finding the common reality between strangers and rendering alien circumstances familiar.