book review : A small silence by Jumoke Verissimo

I had planned to read and review this book pretty quickly but life happened… I finally finished it and I am happy to say it was well worth the wait.

In my opinion writing style is something that can make or break a book. Jumoke Verissimo writes this novel like the poet she is. Her writing is descriptive, detailed, layered yet light and airy.

We are introduced to Prof, a former political activist who has recently been released from prison and his adaptation to life after a long torturous prison sentence.

We experience his confusion and trepidation with was has changed or maybe not changed since his imprisonment. One of these occasions is when Prof was given a GSM phone and he had no clue on how to use it. Another was when he was out for a walk and observed election posters that showed two former military heads contesting a recent election, he summed it up as “Obasanjo of the ’70s contesting against Buhari of the 80s and it is 2005 – how can this country move forward when it seeks the dead to bring revival.”

Paradoxically Prof does not seem to seek any sort of revival or meaningful life. He barricades himself in his darkened flat and only emerges once the city is drenched in absolute darkness. He seems to find comfort in living his life in darkness, isolating his mother and lifelong friend Kayo.

He ended up eroding all relations with people that were supportive of him during his imprisonment, all except for one- Desire- she is allowed into his darkness and they form an unlikely friendship, sitting in the darkness and talking. Sometimes they just sit in silence until Desire leaves and Prof is left to his silence and darkness.

Desire is a young woman pursuing her university studies in Lagos. She carries a secret obsession from her childhood – finding Prof, a political activist who made an impact on the young girl. She even carries a press photo of him in her bra. Desire eventually meets Prof, and begins to secretly visit him at night to enter his darkness of the flat with curtains drawn and no house lights switched on.

Their relationship is strange and interesting. Both want something from each other, the darkness satisfies both for a time but soon begins to disturb Desire. Her search for the truth about Prof and self becomes disturbingly intertwined. I honestly need to re-read this book as I might have missed some hidden twist. and twists there are plenty of.

Eventually when the darkness is lifted, light does not seem to provide what either of the characters expected. There so many surprises in this wonderfully written book.

I recommend it with a rating of 9/10. The writing style was glorious. The characters leapt out at you. The darkness described becomes more than the darkness of a room but the darkness of broken, tortured souls and consumes all who come close to it. I think the darkness described could also be a metaphor for the politics in Nigeria. it is a beautiful and haunting book.

Book details:

Author – Jumoke Verissimo This is her debut novel. She is a poet with two published collections.
Publisher: Cassava Publishers 2019

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