Social satire is tricky to execute: A tale told too broadly can sabotage the humor in its obvious approach, while subtlety may sink its barbs too deep for detection. A Tale From Fynecountry sets its sights on marital harmony, higher education and the ever-present influence of money. Sometimes it succeeds, while at other times it’s a bit of a muddle.
Biletu Bonsala is a married professor. London-educated, he’s returned to Fynecountry (which seems to be a fictitious African village, possibly in the author’s Nigerian homeland) to take a job at the university. He’s surprised to learn that his wife has renounced Islam for a new Christian church that praises money.
Meanwhile, Biletu’s advancement at work would be a sure thing, were he willing to take bribes, but he’s humble and honest to a fault. By contrast, Biletu’s wife Bintu is a schemer with few interests beyond seeking her own advantage. This creates tension in the couple’s marriage. As he bumps into numerous roadblocks on the way to harmony, Biletu must learn to go with the flow, then bend it to his own purposes in order to succeed.
Author Eppie Goyea’s humor is winning: for example, the presentation of brown envelopes between people seeking to grease palms becomes an amusing visual gag here. There are times, however, when the writing is confusing and lacks solid transitions. (One scene, for instance, starts with Biletu forced to get a ride on a motorcycle, and he is soon on a bus with only the slightest transition that even a careful reader might miss.) Other times, it’s uncertain if the author is serious or joking, dampening the satirical effect.
A Tale From Fynecountry does a nice job showing us the blended worlds of tribal chieftains and university dons, preachers and the rural poor, who have less, need less and are happy. While the book requires better editing for clarity, once readers immerse themselves in the story’s rhythms, they will find it mostly an engaging reading experience.
Also available as an ebook.