Remi, a Nigerian girl from Lagos, comes from a wealthy and educated family, with a large house and lots of servants. It is a lively household, with plenty of people coming and going. She is sent to boarding school in England at the unbelievably young age of six. What is even more amazing is that she is left in there for six years without once seeing her parents. In England, in total contrast to her home, she has to experience the loneliness of boarding school where it takes a while to become accepted by the other girls. These girls too come from privileged backgrounds but Remi spends the school holidays with the relatives of her step-grandmother, and they live in a much less affluent world.
She finds herself moving first from her familiar background in Lagos, and then between two different social classes in England, but an outsider in both. She learns to fit in with both settings by adapting her behaviour, in both cases involving fabricating stories about her life in Africa to fit in with her friends’ preconceived ideas, but she doesn’t lose her Nigerian identity completely. She encounters racism, but apparently a racism born of ignorance rather than outright hostility.
Although it is a book written with considerable humour, I found it a somewhat sad story. I can relate very much to the feeling of not quite fitting in anywhere. I’ve had a roaming life but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s given me a roaming mind and I’d prefer to have expanded horizons than static roots.
Simi Bedford has a new book to be published in July 2007, Not With Silver, about a warrior sold into slavery. It sounds worth reading.