My Opinion on Prince of Monkeys!

May 05, 2019

Nnamdi Ehirim

Literary Fiction, Coming-of-Age

Growing up in middle-class Lagos, Nigeria, during the late 1980s and early '90s, Ihechi forms a band of close friends discovering Lagos together as teenagers with differing opinions of everything from film to football, Fela Kuti to spirituality, sex to politics. They remain close knit until tragedy unfolds during an anti government riot.

Exiled from Lagos by his concerned mother, Ihechi moves in with his uncle's family, where he struggles to find himself outside his former circle of friends. He eventually finds success by leveraging his connection with a notorious prostitution linchpin and political heavyweight, earning favour among the ruling elite.
But just as Ihechi is about to make his final ascent into the elite political class, he reunites with his childhood friends and experiences a crisis of conscience that forces him to question his world, his motives, and whom he should become. Nnamdi Ehirim's debut novel, Prince of Monkeys, is a lyrical, mediative observation of Nigerian life, religion, and politics at the end of the twentieth century.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this novel from Counterpoint Press in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.

This story reveals events that took place from Ihechi's childhood to adulthood. He had a close group of friends that he played football with, one of them a Pastor's son (thus granting him the nickname Pastor's Son) and the other one an intelligent boy called Mendaus.

He went to a Christian primary school and felt a little different from his peers since his mother practiced Ifá, a traditional Yoruba pagan religion. Especially since his peers were alarmed at it when they saw it portrayed in a film. However Ihechi eventually told them everything. Upon hearing this, Pastor's Son freaked out.

"So your family has been practicing some coded kind of witchcraft since forever? If it's not witchcraft, then what's the difference?"

Eventually his mother made him live with his uncle's family - where he grew close to his cousins Thessalonians and Ephesians (gratefully shortened to Tessy and Effy). Effy was a <christian turned pagan> while Tessy was a <prostitute>.

Mendaus his childhood friend grew up to be a revolutionary figure in the riots and reminded me of Odenigbo, the 'revolutionary lover' in Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun. Basically a bold brave man with a lot of hair and a expansive vocabulary.

Ihechi at first was proud of his brave, revolutionary friend at first before deciding to change his mind later on.

"A revolution has to be financed."
"Our revolution is of the mind, not material."
"And that's fine with me, but is your mind bulletproof?"

Though this book was engaging, I couldn't help but get annoyed at some instances where a character would have a piece of dialogue that would take up a page or at least most of it.

I also did not care for the somewhat detailed sex scenes between Ihechi and an older woman, though their sexual relationship revealed how they got closer.

All in all a fascinating story of twentieth century Nigerian life.

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Keep it all clean, man. Well, if you really wanna curse, use minor swear words. And I mean the minorest of minor ones.

"Or what?" you ask in indignation.

"Or else."