Radio Sunrise by Anietie Isong
Publication: January 19th 2017 by Jacaranda Books
Format: Paperback Pages: 288
Ifiok, a young journalist working for the government radio station in Lagos, aspires to always do the right thing but the odds seem to be stacked against him. Government pressures cause the funding to his radio drama to get cut off, his girlfriend leaves him when she discovers he is having an affair with an intern, and kidnappings and militancy are on the rise in the country. When Ifiok travels to his hometown to do a documentary on some ex-militants’ apparent redemption, a tragi-comic series of events will make him realise he is unable to swim against the tide.
Radio Sunrise paints a satirical portrait of (post) post-colonial Nigeria that builds on the legacy of the great African satirist tradition of Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Ayi Kwei Armah. – Goodreads.
First of all, I’d like to apologise for the serious lack of content on SugarQuills lately and how slow I’ve been with things. I’ve been really poorly and am only just recovering, which is why my reading and reviewing is all over the place at the moment. I was kindly sent Radio Sunrise by the lovely team at Jacaranda Books and I’ve been going on about this book on Twitter as I’ve been reading it. Radio Sunrise was published in January this year and I’m disappointed at the lack of attention this treasure of a book has received. It definitely deserves more, so here’s me hoping my review helps!
Radio Sunrise is written differently to everything else I’ve been reading lately, so opening up this book was a nice change. The story is written in first-person past-tense through the eyes of the protagonist, Ifiok. Ifiok isn’t central to what’s going on in the book, he just happens to be involved in the action by chance. What happens around Ifiok is far more important, he’s more of a bystander to what Isong is really talking about in Radio Sunrise, and that is the sociopolitical climate in Nigeria. The story begins with Ifiok discovering the government has pulled out of funding his radio drama, which eventually leads to him taking on a documentary focusing on the rehabilitation of ex-militants in Niger Delta, where he was raised. Isong sets the scene flawlessly and describes Ifiok’s surroundings in a subtle way so it doesn’t feel like there are any info-dumps going on anywhere in the narrative. It’s easy to navigate through the culture and mentality being portrayed in the book, which makes it an enjoyable read.
A lot of interesting discussions take place in Radio Sunrise. The one most prominent throughout the book is about ethical journalism because of our protagonist’s occupation. In Radio Sunrise, some journalists only report positively about businesses if they receive something in return (like money from the business). In general, Isong has portrayed a society where, more often than not, people will only do something if there’s something in it for them. There’s a ‘brown envelope’ culture everywhere (referring to the brown envelope in which money is exchanged for favours). When it comes to media, Ifiok’s sentiments on the brown envelope divide him from his colleagues as he has a problem with this and feels he should report honestly for the sake of the country.
‘“You can go ahead and be an ethical journalist,” Linda told me. “But I am not interested in that. I am only after what goes in my pocket.”’
My favourite thing about Radio Sunrise is the way the story is built up and told, the writing is almost rhythmical in the way one thing happens after another. The story doesn’t follow a discernible plot, but this is more of a stylistic choice than poor writing. There are a handful of small climax scenes that stop the story becoming mundane. The build-up to the end is great, I did see the ending coming but reading about how everything came together was what made this book astonishing to me.
The writing says a lot with little, and this makes it easy to get through this book quickly without sacrificing comprehension. However, this book isn’t a page-turner, I was happy to leave the book alone; I didn’t feel curious or eager to read what happened next. I was halfway through when I realised all the characters sounded the same. There aren’t any distinct characteristics separating one character from another because their voices and personalities are too similar. On one hand, I think this is okay because the story doesn’t focus on individual characters, it’s more about what’s happening around them. On the other hand, I feel like this might be why I wasn’t that interested in picking the book back up after putting it down. I am glad I did make myself return to this book though because it was worth it.
I believe Radio Sunrise will especially appeal to those who like to pick apart society and examine it, if that’s something that tickles your fancy, this might be the next great read for you.
I would like to link to own voices reviews for this book, so if you’re an own voices blogger who has reviewed this book, please send me a link to your review so I can add it here!