oni Kan’s ‘Nights of the Creaking Bed’, which is mostly set in Lagos, is not your everyday short story collection.
Made up of 15 independent stories, ‘Nights of the Creaking Bed’ follows the lives, problems, hopes and fears of everyday Lagosians. The stories in this book made me feel a bit like Lagos does: at first, I’m really excited about it, looking forward to the excitement and promises of this bustling city; two or three days in, however, the fatigue caused by the madness and relentlessness of the city starts to set in and soon transforms into almost a resentment for the city, making me yearn for the quiet of the village; eventually, though, when it’s time to go back to London or travel onwards to the village, I am always sad to leave and can’t wait to come back.
The stories in this collection constantly reminded me of that feeling, not because I did not enjoy them, on the contrary, I think it was because I got rather invested in the characters’ lives and often seemingly insurmountable problems. Corruption, averse conditions and constant struggle are everyday companions of ordinary Lagosians, and the author does not seem to be in the business of pretending that things are better than they are, so as a reader, we go along with the lives of characters on the page, suffering and empathising with them. In Lagos, there is no way out, only through.
“In Lagos, there is no way out, only through.”
Some of the stories come to an abrupt end, one is left wanting more, wishing that the author had explored the themes and stories of the characters more. While I was initially a bit thrown off by the abruptness of some of the stories, a bit further into the book I came to realise that this may have been done on purpose. The stories and their protagonists reflect the everyday society of Lagos, and, unfortunately, for many of them there simply is no time to stop and ponder, there is no time to harper on things, the city forces you to move on, to move forward, and get things done. Once I came to see the stories in that way, I was completely enthralled and ready to be taken on this wild ride.
While some of you may know that I usually need to be in a particular mood to read short story collections, the title of this collection and the potential implications had me intrigued and unable to let it lie on my shelf for too long. The possible double implications behind the reason why a bed might be creaking at night, either for salacious or completely harmless reasons, is definitely reflected in the stories. I don’t want to give too much away in that regard so I’d suggest you read the stories and get back to me to discuss this further.
All in all, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the style, themes, and general atmosphere of this short story collection. I applaud Toni Kan for being unapologetic about the style and the people he brings to life. If you are looking for a thoroughly Nigerian, yet globally accessible and entertaining collection of stories that will take you by surprise, that will lure you in and take you on a wild and unforgettable ride, then ‘Nights of the Creaking Bed’ is definitely for you.
*This book was gifted to me by Cassava Republic.