Intriguing Nigerian scenes

Voice of America, by EC Osondu, Granta, RRP£7.99, 224 pages

Winner of the 2009 Caine Prize for African Writing, EC Osondu’s promising debut story collection is populated by a varied cast of Nigerians. There are the youths in a refugee camp sharing their meagre hopes of western aid; there are gullible, superstitious parents; emigrants struggling to succeed in America; a prostitute’s hapless boyfriend; and a disciplinarian forcing his boys to witness a morally instructive public execution.

There’s an engaging breadth of both the domestic and public in Voice of America. Yet while the smooth fluency of Osundu’s prose carries the reader in many places, in others it flows too quickly over emotional turmoil that might reveal greater depths. His fondness for a mildly homiletic tone – and the lack of a sharp, concluding twist that the short form relies upon to snare the reader – takes the edge off too many of these tales.

The result is a collection that has more of a sense of intriguing Nigerian scenes than insightful, tenacious stories.

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