The Bead Collector
Publisher: Interlink Books (Sept, 2018)
Pages: 376 pages
Lagos, January 1976, six years after the Nigerian Civil War. A new military regime has been in power for six months, but rumors are spreading that a countercoup is imminent. At a crowded art exhibition in the affluent Ikoyi neighborhood, Remi Lawal, a Nigerian woman who runs her own greeting-card shop, meets Frances Cooke, who introduces herself as an American art dealer in Nigeria to buy rare beads. They strike up an acquaintance and hospitable Remi welcomes the enigmatic Frances into her world. With her signature subtlety and wit, Sefi Atta recasts the international espionage tale by bringing the intrigue and politics of family life to the fore.
“A Nigerian woman befriends an American woman and their short friendship and peregrinations around the Ikoyi-Victoria axis provide the backdrop for a wickedly delicious expose of Nigeria's political and business elite on the cusp of a bloody coup and monumental change. This is the bonfire of Nigerian vanities in full display. The Bead Collector is an era defining novel told with devastating wit and literary aplomb.” – Toni Kan, author of The Carnivorous City
“The Bead Collector is centered around a dialogue between two women, but radiates out through family and society and the political realm in Nigeria to form a vast, rich, dialogue, one, ultimately, between tradition and progress. Sefi Atta has crafted yet another stunning novel, a deeply compelling, illuminating story of personal and national identity in a time of great transition.” – Gayle Brandeis, author of Self Storage
“In The Bead Collector through Atta's deliciously irreverent and precise prose we encounter a nuanced world of deftly crafted characters, a narrative distinct for its social and political complexity and a biting humour. The beauty of the story rests in its deceptively steady pace and the carefully placed details that create a sense of mounting suspense and ultimately a deeply enjoyable reading experience.” – Yewande Omotoso, author of The Woman Next Door
“The Bead Collector offers a brilliant evocation of Lagos in the tense months before the coup attempt of 1976, through the eyes of Remi Lawal, a wife, mother and budding businesswoman who befriends a potentially suspicious American traveler. Sefi Atta brings to exhilarating life the textures, rhythms and byzantine subtexts of this complex society. It's been a long time since I felt so powerfully immersed in a novel.” – Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs
“Atta is a seasoned, and masterful storyteller.” – Lola Shoneyin, author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
The invitation stated that the exhibition would begin at six o'clock, but by seven-thirty that evening, Tunde and I were the only Nigerian guests who had shown up. At first, I put it down to the usual disregard for punctuality in Lagos. Then I thought perhaps it was due to the rumor, which began at
Christmas and spread by way of alleged confirmation, that another military coup was imminent.
Still, Tunde and I were not completely alone among foreigners. The artist, a bead painter, was Nigerian. The poor fellow was sweating away in his dashiki as he tried to explain postmodernism to those of us who were present. His works were hung up at one end of the hall at the Kuramo Hotel.
Oyinda, our host for the evening as president of the Cultural Society of Lagos, was also Nigerian, though neither her appearance nor her demeanor would suggest that. She wore a black strapless dress that kept sliding down, so once in a while she lifted her arms in a sort of flourish. She spoke in a hoity-toity
English accent, as if she had a hot potato in her mouth.