Book Review: A
Place in the Sun by Kola King
Reviewed by Emmanuel Yawe
Monday, August 8, 2016.
Place in the Sun is a racy novel; rich in history and
suspense. Written by Kola King, who a veteran journalist, it is a love story based
in the fictional country of Songha, which in reality looks like life in the
early days of colonial conquest in Northern Nigeria where the author hails from.
Beginning from Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart,
many a fictional work has been done about life in Nigeria and Africa in this
period. A Place in the Sun stands out
of the crowd not only because it is one of the few written about Northern
Nigeria in the colonial era but because it is a beautifully crafted work of art, mixed
with history and culture. The intriguing
thing about it is the ability of the author to hold the reader spellbound and
to educate him until he gets to the very last page.
The first edition of the book which was recently
released by Verity Publishers of Pretoria in South Africa comes in paperback
and e-Book form. The print work is excellent thus reducing the stress of the
reader as he goes through the 42 chapters of the novel.
It begins with the birth of Zakka - the main
character in the story - in Tekota, at the dawn of European colonization of Songaland.
He thus grew up under the shadow of colonial rule in a land described by the
narrator as “bright with sunshine which shone all year round... Wide, vast and
extensive, the land was lush and fertile…Because of its salubrious weather and
fertile land, Shongaland was as though paradise in the tropics.”
The people of Shongaland were “renowned for their
hospitality, warmth and friendliness.” The author also goes further to describe
them as “great farmers and intrepid hunters; fishermen, swift with their nets
and skillful with canoeing.” They are also said to be “giant men, bold and
unafraid warriors” who had conquered and subdued their neighbours.
Thus through simple but captivating and effective
choice of words, Kola King is able to get the reader interested in the land and
the people that make the story. The story itself looks real and though full of
suspense, intrigue and sometimes tragedy, the reader is not subjected to
mindless sensationalism and over dramatization. Once in a while, the author falls back on
history and this helps to remind the reader that this is a real world, a real
life situation. For a writer who is making his debut in fictional writing, A Place in the Sun will certainly give
the author a place under the sun where there is a rather large crowd of
The novel is about the love story of Zakka, a
brilliant young lad from Tekota who excels in his studies at primary school in
his home village. Zakka later travels to the big town of Kartadu for his training at a
Teachers College and as result of his demonstrated brilliance is employed
immediately on graduation to be an auxiliary teacher in the same school. His
diligence at work and exemplary character brings him to the attention of the
education secretary who orders his employment at the head office of the
regional headquarters of the education department on the completion of his one
year stint as an auxiliary teacher.
Zakka falls in love with Matta, a girl from Tekota
who has had a turbulent love life. Impregnated by her teacher, a bonhomie
drunkard teacher by the name Gora at a tender age, Matta was given out in
marriage at that age. Tragically, the marriage was bedevilled with a series of
misfortunes. There was drought in the
land as a result of which poverty prevailed, bringing starvation and death in
its wake. The hard times brought strife in the relationship of the newly
married Gora and Matta. Thus Gora who had shown signs of improvement from his
carefree life of alcoholism relapsed back to his bad old ways. The pregnancy
itself turned out to be another disaster for it lasted for a whole twelve
months at the end of which the child is stillborn. These disasters ended with
Matta calling it quits with the marriage.
Meanwhile, the brilliant Zakka has made his forays
into the world beyond Tekota to the Teachers Training College at Kartadu. Eventually, Matta pulls herself out of the setbacks
of her life and returns to complete her primary education. She joins Zakka at Kartadu
even though in a different school, a teachers’ college for girls. The two meet
and gradually a love relationship builds up.
The drunken philanderer Gora has also gotten out
of his stupor. Dismissed from his teaching job because of excessive alcoholism,
he flees Tekota and after a long spell of hardtimes in Kartadu he drops his
drinking habits and gets a job at the railways. A new improved Gora gets rapid
promotion there and comes back to claim his long lost wife – Matta.
The story becomes complicated. Zakka cannot marry
Matta because the dowry paid by Gora has not been returned and therefore by
tradition Matta is still his wife. Zakka himself is up against his father who
has found a fresh new wife for him and does not want to hear that his son with
such a bright future is going to marry a divorcee woman with such a sordid
history like Matta.
The story ends tragically when Gora, ever
insistent on reclaiming his wife is on his way to Tekota village gets drowned
in a canoe mishap. The coast thus becomes clear for the two love birds - Zakka
and Matta to have their way.
Beyond the excellent print and beautiful prose, A Place in the Sun is a book of history.
It documents the contradictions of a colonized African society – the challenges
of modernity against tradition. It is a recommended text to adults because it
entertains and enthrals; but it is also good for young African students who need
it to know where they are coming from and to improve their diction and writing