TITLE: THE SPIDER KING’S DAUGHTER
AUTHOR: CHIBUNDU ONUZO
PUBLISHER: FABER & FABER
GENRE: GENERAL FICTION
The Spider King’s Daughter was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Dylan Thomas Prize 2012 and won the Betty Trask Award in 2013.
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Seventeen-year-old Abike Johnson is the favourite child of her wealthy father. She lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos, protected by armed guards and ferried everywhere in a huge black jeep.
A world away from Abike’s mansion, in the city’s slums, lives an eighteen-year-old hawker struggling to make sense of the world. His family lost everything after his father’s death and now he sells ice cream at the side of the road to support his mother and sister.
When Abike buys ice cream from the hawker one afternoon, they strike up a tentative and unlikely romance. But as they grow closer, revelations from the past threaten their relationship and both Abike and the hawker must decide where their loyalties lie.
Let me tell you about a game called Frustration. A dog used to follow me around when I was ten. One day, my father had his driver run over the dog in plain view of the house. I watched from my window. The black car purring on the grit, the driver’s hands shaking as he prepared himself for a second hit and my father, sitting in the back seat, watching.
Onuzo uses two first person narrators in The Spider King’s Daughter. Most of the chapters are split between Abike and the hawker she falls for. This works surprisingly well. The switching between characters took a few chapters to get used to but I soon got into the flow. There are the odd chapter that only uses one narrator.
The only issue I had with the alternating narrators was that Onuzo choose to write Abike’s section in italics. I didn’t see any real need for this. I know this was done to highlight the change in viewpoint character but I knew when the viewpoint switched without this. I also found some of the scenes in the chapters were repetitive. The chapter would start with something happening from Abike’s point of view. Later in the chapter the point of view switches to the hawker and some events are repeated, albeit from him perspective. In some cases there’s no issue with this. However, a few times I felt there was no real change in switching perspectives and I thought events were unnecessarily repeated.
I thought the characters were really interesting in The Spider King’s Daughter. Abike is a very complex character. In the initial chapters she easily be dismissed as an empty-headed spoiled brat. There were moments when I wondered if she struck up a relationship with the hawker for the wrong reasons i.e. she wanted to rough it, she wanted to feel superior and she wanted to piss her father off etcetera. Abike becomes a much more rounded character as The Spider King’s Daughter progressed. At the end of the novel Onuzo reveals her dark, twisted side. I thought the hawker was also complex and interesting. I thought it was weird that his name is never revealed. I felt a lot of sympathy for him. He had once been as rich as Abike but his world was turned upside down when his father died.
I liked the way Onuzo develops Abike and the hawker’s relationship. At first they are both shy and tentative around each other. The hawker is intrigued by the sad, lonely girl he glimpses inside Abike. Abike appears to see the hawker as some kind of interesting pet. They grow closer and closer and appear to really care about each other. I thought this was well done.
I liked the subtle way Onuzo makes the storyline darker and darker in The Spider King’s Daughter. The first half or so of the novel deals with Abike and the hawker meeting and their relationship developing. The Spider Man’s Daughter gradually become darker and darker as the hawker learns the identity of Abike’s father and becomes obsessed with vengeance.
I thought The Spider’s King’s Daughter was a great novel, absolutely great. The novel was a lot more complex and a lot darker than I expected. I thought The Spider King’s Daughter was going to be a star-crossed lover novel; rich girl falls for poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks but Onuzo surprised me.