Movie/Book Reviews

Ellen Banda Aaku Reviews Jola Naibi’s Terra Cotta Beauty


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Terra Cotta Beauty is a blend of individual stories that are skilfully interlinked. Each story, told from the perspective of engaging characters, is a snapshot of a community in Lagos, Nigeria. A young boy is a victim of a robbery, a young widow finds her voice and confronts an overbearing father in law, circumstances force a young man into a life of crime, a commute to work has a young woman contemplating her life and that of others; these lives are in a way linked to the life of the owner of Terra Cotta Beauty: a hair salon in a residential area.

Such is Jola Naibi’s skill at giving vivid detailed description that as a reader I experienced Lagos. I found myself resisting the urge to swat at the houseflies from the rubbish dump circling the glass of beer. When  Olawunmi  tried to board a molue and lost her shoe I wanted to pick it up for her, and I applauded  Reuben for  making the decision to walk away all because as a reader I was drawn into the scenes.

But what to me makes Terra Cotta Beauty a great piece of writing is the subtle way the author narrates and reveals the traumas and the tragedies people witness in their daily lives. Naibi addresses these issues without hammering the points home. And it is this subtleness that leaves the issues lingering in the reader’s mind long after they have turned the last page.

Jola Naibi lives in the United States from where she reminisces and writes about life in Lagos. You can read more of her writing on Terra Cotta Beauty is her first book and is available in Lagos exclusively at Patabah Book, Adeniran Ogunsanya (Shoprite) Shopping Mall, Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria (


 Ellen Banda-Aaku writes books for children, adult fiction and creative non-fiction. Her first novel, Patchwork, won the Penguin Prize for African Writing and was short-listed for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize. Find out more about her writing on:

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