Where Bones Dance: An English Girlshood, An African War
Young girls grow up in a world of imagination, but few, like Anna (nicknamed Jake), grow amidst a volatile political state soon to erupt into a brutal war. The time is the 1960s in Lagos, Nigeria. Anna’s parents are trying to deal with an adult understanding of the growing violence. Pacifying themselves with Nigerian customs and artifacts, they live in a state of denial, focusing only on the exotic. Anna seems to alternate between wanting their attention and seeking security in her fantasy world pursued with her friend Dave. Anna is also funny and never anything but honest, qualities which increase the potency of her anger and sadness as she realizes her parents are respectively absent or drunk most of the time.
Christine, their Ibo native maid, is the stark reminder of the killing not far from their world. Although she tells many Ibo tales of bravery, Anna notes she “is guarding a secret place in her mind, and she only lets herself visit it sometimes but she always knows it’s there. I want to know what it is.” She finds out, and her imagination reels as she imagines the thousands of babies being assaulted by the enemy “killer ghosts.” Sensually and perceptively alive to people and nature, humorously rejecting marriage and its accompanying lack of freedom, absorbing and interpreting the play of sex and its accompanying roles dependent upon gender and race, Anna poetically traces and presents the beauty and horror in her Nigerian world. It leaves the reader breathless.