Book Review – A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò

A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò is a novel that illuminates and explores, with great candour and heart, two very different sides of modern Nigeria. Wúràolá, a young doctor from a wealthy family, is weighed down by the punishing hours and strained environment of her job, and the pressure from her family and boyfriend to meet their expectations. Eniolá, reviled in his community and being punished daily in school due to his father’s job loss and subsequent fall into severe debt and poverty, is struggling to accept the sacrifices that must be made for them to get by. As their two storylines unfold, we see not only from their perspectives but also from the key characters around them, resulting in a rich portrait of the complexity of family dynamics, the weight and effect of family and community expectations, the sacrifices we make for our families, and the times we finally find a way to put ourselves first, for better or for worse.

Exploring themes from political corruption, social injustice and mental health under great pressure, to love, loss, manipulation and violence, in particular against women, this novel is a rich tapestry drawing together experiences from both sides of a social divide. Wúràolá and Eniolá cross paths at several points throughout the novel but it’s not until the novel rushes towards a devastating conclusion that their worlds truly collide. 

Adébáyò writes in prose which is rich and vibrant, conjuring a real sense of place through dialogue and description. The novel builds slowly, taking its time giving us an in-depth and introspective insight into the struggles our two main characters are facing, as well as delving into the generational stories and struggles of their families. Adébáyò captures the hustle and bustle of interfering family and community beautifully, and this novel is replete with the spirit of strong women, from both sides of the divide, mostly trying to do the best for themselves and their families. It’s not until the novel is nearing the end that it really picks up pace, dramatically so, which in a way makes the ending feel somewhat sudden.

This was a poignant and captivating read, exploring some heartbreaking issues with a keen eye and a deft touch. 


A Spell of Good Things is published by Canongate on February 9th. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my eARC.


Ayòbámi Adébáyò was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her debut novel, Stay With Me, won the 9mobile Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, the Wellcome Book Prize and the Kwani? Manuscript Prize. It has been translated into twenty languages and the French translation was awarded the Prix Les Afriques. Longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award, Stay With Me was a New York TimesGuardianChicago Tribune and NPR Best Book of the Year. Ayòbámi Adébàyò splits her time between Norwich and Lagos.

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