A few years back when my mum still lived in the UK, I had a Sunday ritual of going to her place for lunch and then settling down to watch a Ghanaian movie or two, that she had just bought or a Nollywood movie on OBE. What first started as a bit of daughterly indulgence towards my mum, actually became a point of slight obsession for me because I found these movies really addictive and if I’m honest, still do. They are one of many guilty pleasures that I have. The endless plots, the melodrama, the jokes especially the unintentional ones, the depiction of everyday African life and culture, I find fascinating as well as really very entertaining. So it was my pleasure to read Nothing Comes Close, a debut novel by Tolulope Popoola, which is everything an African movie delivers but in literary form.
The novel is a typical boy-meets-girl story but fused with twists and turns, interfering relatives, jealous friends, unexpected deaths and more than a few secrets, lies and revelations along the way. Lola is an attractive independent, confident young woman who likes to hang out with her three best friends. She meets Wole at the party of one of said best friends and is immediately charmed by his good looks and cool mysterious demeanor. Wole too is taken by Lola and the two very quickly develop a relationship. But the course of true love does not run smooth because Wole despite being Mr Perfect is a man of several unbecoming secrets which are slowly revealed as the novel unfolds, leaving Lola to wonder if she can really trust him. The evidence and her sister (the interfering relative) says not. But Lola wants to follow her heart, and without wanting to give too much away she does but not without cost.
Though at times overly dramatic (my eyebrows were raised several times), I really enjoyed reading this novel and was actually quite sad when it came to an end, I was that gripped by the soap-operaesque storyline (is there a part two?). It was pure Nollywood and just what I needed to bring some cheer to these wintry days. The dialogue was a little clunky at times, and the plot somewhat incredulous in that when Wole’s dark secrets came to light, I had some questions that did not get asked or answered, leaving me to consider that Lola was either very understanding and forgiving or just didn’t like to get bogged down in details. The same could be said for her friends who all seemed to be involved in some questionable dramas of their own. But it doesn’t matter because it was fun, captivating fun at that. More often than not the novels I read are quite heavy and serious, so it was nice to read something fairly lighthearted and funny, though it had its share of seriousness. My only other criticism asides from the clunky dialogue would be that I would have loved to have seen the characters ‘unpacked’ more to give them a bit more depth and to make them more rounded and fully fleshed out characters. But, I feel this is a novel for the movie generation that like fast and furious plot lines that are neatly tied up in a couple of hours, and the fact that the novel is accompanied with its own trailer underscores my point. But this is no bad thing and I look forward to Popoola’s next offering, which I hope is not too long a wait and goes even further to show what a fine storyteller she is.