TITLE: CITY OF GOLD AND RUST
AUTHOR: dave chukwuji
NUMBER OF PAGES: 121
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES & RHYTHM PUBLISHERS
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2017
REVIEWER: JOSEPH OMOTAYO
In CITY OF GOLD AND RUST, modernity and traditions clash and the rustic marries the exotic. Dave Chukwuji writes a simple love story that later suddenly goes into a sweet-bitter complication. Life is never fair.
In this novella, a miniscule part of the human story becomes a grand reflection of everything wrong with our world.
Stories based on issues like love instantly purge us. They appeal to our emotions easily because they are some of life’s common loops. To purge us and appeal to our emotions easily will be a lazy attempt. This book does not do that.
In Dave Chukwuji’s City of Gold and Rust, love is a measure of life’s contradictions in class, in social-economics, and in society; and how all these struggle to live together and complement each other. Jennifer and Richard are of contradictory backgrounds but they made an attempt to trump that. Ndeoma is another contradiction in Odua Edward Akaba’s house. And Richard and Osaro are two friends with different education background but still find a way to mix together.
Dave Chukwuji uses these inequalities to build a story that at the same time is moving and instructive.
In CITY OF GOLD AND RUST, there is love, there is pain and there are broken shards of everything that makes life, life. Following the simple yet elegant love story of Jennifer and Richard, the book entertains as it shows the reader how love is both a beauty and a complication. Richard falls in love and his whole world changes for good (for bad?).
Love meets a typical unassuming roadside mechanic in a chance happening with the Ogunjobis and things do not remain the same. What begins as a love story later turns out to be something more encompassing. With the relationship between Jennifer and Richard, the reader is plunged into something way deeper. The Igbo osu caste system is unravelled through their love relationship.
Divided into two parts, the novella begins in media res; it begins in the middle, goes to the beginning and comes to an end. That way, there is much suspense to whet the reader’s longing.
City of Gold and Rust patiently takes the reader through the lives these two lovers, and as their love grows, so does the story. The story is very much dependent on them. City of Gold and Rust is also the story of Anninyi village. A village caught in its own web of deception and self-imposed limitation.
For anyone that has never been to Ibadan, this novella is a fine geography of that city. More so, this book instils a sense of nostalgia if you were once familiar with the city. The author designs the itinerary of some of his characters around recognizable places in Ibadan. There are lush description of Agbowo and the University of Ibadan (UI). Memories of my short stay in that area hurriedly gripped when I read this:
“He drove into the ultra modern Agbowo shopping Complex, parked the car beside a Volkswagen.
In the shopping area, Richard watched Jennifer buy things and pay without scruples. He noticed the thick wad of cash.
As they walked out of one of the shops, students from University of Ibadan (UI) walked in and out of the university gates with travelling bags slung across their shoulders, while cars honked and uniformed security personnel kept watch. Vehicles coming out of the campus were made to stop and bags of pedestrians were searched.”
The book could not have been set in present day Ibadan with the mention of the Agbowo ultra-modern shopping Complex and its bustling activities. Agbowo shopping Complex is a ghost of that old self now. The complex operates epileptically now or does not at all. There is really is no clear cut way to know when the book is set except attempts to know through the songs Jennifer gushes about here:
“You see, if you listen to old sentimental songs…blues, they would seem to have lost their push and vigour, but the meaning will definitely remain. …. she fingered the cassette. “With this new cassette, I intend to start my collection by recording Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, Donna Summer’s There Will Always Be a You, Midnight Star’s Feels So Good, all the love songs Bob Marley ever did… I will also include George Benson’s greatest love of all and Whitney Houston’s version of the same song and compare them.” She went on and on.”
Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” was recorded in 1973 and Gorge Benson’s Greatest Love Of All was released in 1977. Whitney Houston’s version followed soon afterwards. One may slightly assume the book is set 10 or 20 years after, perhaps in the early 90’s, perhaps not. Also, I wanted to pin the time setting to the brand of car Chief Ogunjobi uses. He uses a Mercedes Benz X-Class. That attempt also fails. Is that kind of model called an X-Class or S-Class? I think Mercedes Benz X-Class series are for trucks and S-series for car(?). The time setting of the book eludes one somewhat. However, it is interesting when a reader has to figure out a book’s time setting this way. It sends the reader on a task to discover more than the story in the book.
One thing I really liked about the book is how it explored the Igbo osu caste system and its attendant consequences. The Osu caste system, though died with a 1956 law that abolished it, still lives on in this modern time in shush stigmatisation. People are still being denied political positions and even marriages into some families if their lineages are connected with an osu.
This book uses one of its main characters to portray this caste system in its ingloriousness.
Dave Chukwuji divides the book into two different parts to achieve a very shocking effect of the system. This is laudable. Perhaps what Dave Chukwuiji does in exploring the osu caste system is what Chinua Achebe advocates for arts when he says: “Great art flourishes on problems or anguish…But the role of the writer must be very clear. The writer must not be on the side of oppression…”
City of Gold and Rust explicates known issues for us in a way that engages. Love engages all, little wonder love is situated at the centre of things in the book. You should read this book.