You read certain stories and you tell yourself, ‘this should be made into a motion picture’. Sefi Atta’s Swallow is one of such books. A story focusing on the lives of two young women living in contemporary Nigeria and the daily struggles and harassments they face as they try all possible means to get through, sometimes not minding the dreadful consequences that may come with each risk.

The story is told in a first voice by Tolani Ajao, a lady in her late twenties, who has left her hometown,Makoku for Lagos to start a new life without any idea of what is to come. She is able to take us through Lagos, Nigeria of the 80s and thoroughly depict the life of then( many of which those of us living in current Lagos can still relate to) using her story as well as bits of her mother’s and that of her neighbours’.

Swallow covers many aspects of everyday life as experienced by Nigerian citizens from the issue of unemployment to that of relationships,tribalism, marital affairs ,religious views, unpaid salaries,parenting, sexual harassments etc.

What I enjoyed most about Tolani’s narration is the way in which she expressed her ideas about life generally, most of which were mainly philosophical giving the reader a chance to absorb and think her thoughts through in order to see where she was coming from and where she was headed.

Sefi Atta’s character development and progression is one which endears the reader to the story. The richness of each character and how they complemented each other gave the story its full meaning making it worthwhile to read while appearing to be totally true.




  • No one is born bad. You have to watch them
  • Lies hide between words, like cowards, and the truth need not draw attention to itself.
  • No one can say for certain what life is like anywhere in the world unless they actually live there.
  • ‘Our Civil war saddened me’ I said. ‘To think that the oyinbos left  and we began to fight each other like that. It was not right. Only children behave that way when their parents leave the house’.
  • Morality was an easy friend to part with, yet too hard to avoid thereafter.
  • Life was full of enough unexpected misfortune. Why invite more?
  • He said it’s a pity because oyinbos write theories about things they can’t understand, and by the time they finish, you can’t understand either, even if they’re writing about you.










ISBN: 978-978-915-361-9


This is a text I’d recommend for those who enjoy a good story that leaves its reader(s) with lots of intriguing ideas as well as topics to brainstorm…

Rating: 4.5/5

AAApress should improve on their binding and printing.

Feel free to drop comments as regards the book or review. Thank you.


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