Writer: Eghosa Imasuen
Year of Publication: 2011
Publisher: Kachifo Limited
Number of pages: 350
I have learned, from experience, that people are drawn to a work of art by either how much they are entertained by it or by how much they relate to it. Eghosa Imasuen’s Fine Boys makes an attempt at both and succeeds, giving its reader a total package.
Fine Boys is the story of Ewaen, a first born of his parents and older brother to his twin siblings, Osaze and Eniye. Fresh out of secondary school in 1992, he gains admission into the University of Benin, alongside his best friend, Wilhelm, a mixed-race pidgin-speaking family friend of his from secondary school who tends to overdo everything he loves, with whom Ewaen plays video games and discusses new experiences with Kpoba, their other friend who has to wait an extra year for admission.
The university is entirely different from anything they or their roommates in room A109 have ever witnessed. They form strong bonds and discuss politics, religion, women and especially, confraternities on campus. They are individually being wooed to ‘blend’ by ‘confra’ boys belonging to different cults, and while they share experiences, all agreeing to never blend, they begin to fall out one by one as time passes, joining different confraternities and giving different excuses while at it. While all this is going on, there is also the backdrop of the heated Nigerian socio-economic and political climate at the time, as well as issues of quarreling and fighting between his parents.
Ewaen and Wilhelm are medical students and would have to navigate the terrible system of riots and strikes as well as the temptations of cults, cigarettes, booze and women that tend to shift their focus from time to time. In something of a coming of age story, Fine Boys explores the entirety of Ewaen’s Uniben days from 1992 to 1996, his struggles, his triumphs, his losses and his choices.
The typicalness and relatability of the campus life draws you in, as with the humor, and experiences that mark adolescence to adulthood in the life of a boy. There are moments where Ewaen asks himself what he is doing, and in those brief moments, you find yourself asking him, or even yourself, the same thing.
Eghosa Imasuen is totally Nigerian with this book, employing characteristic Nigerian terminologies for things without so much as italicizing them. With this, you find yourself connecting to each character separately with a clear picture in your head of how they look, sound, and behave, and what to expect from them.
Tambo, whose real name is Clement, for example, is a Cosa Nostra blender from A109 who tries to maintain loyalty to his friends and his cult. He is loyal to the point of putting each one in jeopardy to please the other, which is seen in his theft of Mesiri’s money to pay confra dues, and in snitching on his confra to help save Wilhelm more than once.
We grow with these characters. We understand them and can relate to them with as much realness as if they were here in person, acting it out. Eghosa Imasuen gets the reader wondering if Ewaen isn’t him or a part of himself, with the ease at which they both connect. Fine Boys is also blessed with research. Given its reality beside true events, it weaves its occurrences to match them, and barely feels like fiction. The everydayness of it, of family conversations, issues with in-laws, rich cousins who study abroad, a cadaver called ‘Thriller’, girls’ hostel shenanigans, Fine Boys gives you an experience you would not easily forget.
I totally enjoyed reading, and strongly recommend.