Friday 15 February 2013

“Nothing Comes Close” by Tolulope Popoola

@omotayome for Twitter

In romance books, you already know what will happen: a guy meets a lady, the lady is swept off the ground, they both surmount obstacles and the ring comes, they wed. But we keep reading them anyway. We even binge on them. Something, however, is true; romance is a revolving genre. It spins around every pain we pass through; the intrapersonal and interpersonal woes that we daily confront. In that regard, romance is a psychological genre, it deeply relates with our minds.

Tolulope’s Nothing Comes Close is nothing short of the aforementioned. While the plot may be so typical of the romance genre, it delves into the psyche of the reader and his emotion is left unbidden. I love this book for that. Alternatively, I may say the genre is good at communicating more with the inner-human person and I may still be right. Every day we fall in love, in sustaining the love, we battle confrontations and in facing them, we become who we presently are. Now, never say a Romance novel is stereotypical, even the stereotypical is life. Every day, it is a fact, you eat. Call that usual, hate it, starve yourself and die altogether.

Nothing Comes Close flexibly narrates love with the complex mishmashes of life as its characters battle different torments. It is in the battling that the reader is hooked to the book. He suddenly sees his life in scattered shards in the characters’. In Lola; you will be the lady thrashing around to be loved, hurting with every move. When you are Maureen; your life will be free, you will set your own rules, abide by them, damn cautions but will eternally succumb all the same. Becoming Titi might be desperate as you will many times condition yourself to emotional upheavals, believing only what you will and forsaking others’ because you just must love. Be Temmy if you can, however, finding love might be hard but your last story will pay off. About seeing yourself as Funmi, conjugal bliss might smile on you, but what of your Wole’s crush? When you become Wole, you are the book and the readers must follow you; your pasts, evils and love alike.

In Nothing Comes Close, love twirls everything, leaving in its wake disgusts, pains, hurts and fulfillments as the chapters in the books are skillfully divided between Lola’s and Wole’s point-of-views.

“Nothing Comes Close” Slips

No single book, certainly, can be the total representation of a thing. This is why everybody must write, we must always write. From the incessant facebook statuses, the micro and long blogposts to the twitter short words, technology is fast filling the gap, breaking single opinions and offering various and equally important sub-thoughts. There is a snag to the depiction of what attracts women to men in this book and that does not sit well with me. Admittedly, I do not hold the right to say this is how things should be written about, that could only be prejudicial. But most importantly, I must demand originality when things are cobbled together to maintain fake pristineness or continue a tradition of lazy make-belief. And this is my case:

“I turned and looked properly. A tingle travelled up and down my spine. Indeed the taller of the two guys were handsome. Not only his face or his very athletic body but the way he carried himself when he walked. I wanted to stand and stare at him. It had been ages since somebody had that effect on me… ” (pg. 10)

Now, that is a cheap description. That alone stands for the manner we have always had to pander to stilted portrayal. You really want to question the inventiveness of that excerpt, the first crushing encounter Lola had with Wole. And the more you do that, the deeper your frustration goes: Must Wole have to be tall to be handsome? If he hadn’t been tall, will Lola have been thrilled by his looks? Does the height advantage Wole has over the other single him out and make him more preferable of the two? What if both of them were tall, would Lola be emotionally confused as to whom to fall for? If they were both short in height, would they have failed her attention? It is these questions that call to certainty the fakeness of that excerpt. That place in the book and other few instances are only a prolonged tradition of the perfect person being the object of love; an overbeaten continuation of Loretta Chase’s, Jude Deveraux’s, LaVyrle Spencer’s material.

In months’ time, I will get a-three-pack fitness, nearing the minimum required four packs a prospective lover once demanded. And maybe then, I will be successful at love. But really, nobody should become an exact Wole for another Lola. One day too, I will catch my 5ft height. I am in my early twenties now but who says I cannot be taller. I really must become Wole to be loved. Nothing Come Close subtly advises me so, however ridiculous that is.

Not Too Good

“ ‘You know who Dimka was?’ {Wole}
‘No’ {Lola}
Oh, little children of nowadays. You know nothing about the history of Nigeria… We had a Head-of-State called Murtala Mohammed… He was killed mafia style… Dimka was one of the guys responsible. They were all caught and executed, but Dimka stayed longer than the others because he sang like a canary, giving the names of co-conspirators….” {Wole} (pg. 102-103)

That conversation between Wole and Lola is a weak attempt at revisiting that part of Nigeria’s history. It is a nice highlight of the Dimaka’s evils anyway. However, when Tolulope debases her Lola-character as not knowing who Dimka was, the attempt becomes, aside from being weak, misleading. Moreover, I am of the opinion that patriotism rarely reflect in our education curriculum as we go hugging everything Western and foreign, favouring them over what are ours. What especially comes out flat in that excerpt is the way the author chooses to do it. For goodness sake, Lola finishes her degree in Nigeria before migrating to London. So, how come during her University days, she never comes across the history relating to Dimka? True as that portrayal of Lola may fairly seem, it still comes across as a careless inclusion of Dimka’s history in the novel. It does not align with the character background of Lola.

Tolulope again fails in showing the parlance that goes between men playing basketball. She is not familiar with the sport, the reader can clearly see that. But a little research would have done the job. The following conversation is dull. I love basketball and I play it with friends, so I know Tolulope’s attempt at creating that environment in the book is simply a fobbing-off effort. Any basketball lover will know that.

“ ‘Slam Dunk!’
‘Great shots’ …
‘Someone is on fire today’. Mark grinned as he retrieved the ball. He was playing for the opposing team.
‘For sure!’ I called back” (pg. 11)

Get Nothing Comes Close, curl up in a chair and enjoy the beautiful fast-paced read. Tolulope’s simple yet elegant writing allures.


  1. Hmmm. Excellent review man! The review in itself is an enjoyable piece of literature. I like the way you went deeper in highlighting the successes and flaws of the book. And I see them. Romance will always have a ready market. However, it is keen observation and creative attention to detail, that will lift a writer's work from the pack.

    1. @Samuel. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I am happy you find the review interesting. And I love your take on the review. Please, come around soon for more in-depth reviews, Samuel.

  2. Joseph, you performed a good X-ray on the book.

    You're at this. Keep it up.

  3. Nice book review

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by. Please, do come again soon to read and comment. Thank you.

  4. I like a love story with substance and intelligence. This seems to tick all the boxes for me. Where can we buy the book?

    1. Hey Lydia. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. You can get the book on Amazon. Please, follow this link to do that:

  5. You guys are doing well...writing up critical reviews of books...