I just completed my reading of Karen King-Aribisala's The Hangman's Game. As you recall, last month it won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Regional Prize for Best Book (African region). The author is Guyanese-born, and lives in Nigeria. Here's my (brief) review of The Hangman's Game.
The novel is an interweaving of two tales of events leading up to, and shortly after societal upheavals in two countries. One is a tale of a slave revolt in Guyana (1823); the other is a tale of a coup in contemporary Nigeria. The narrator (a writer) is a Guyanese immigrant in Nigeria who is married to a Nigerian, and is pregnant with her second child.
The interweaving of the two tales succeeds as an artistic way of making a political statement about unjust societies. The narrator/writer at first appears to struggle to hold the two tales apart as they unfold, and then gives in to the similarities, and allows them to meld.
The novel makes startling and not-so-startling comparisons between a slave society, and contemporary Nigeria. But what makes it a compelling read is the narrator/writer whose anxieties over the novel she is writing, the child she is carrying, her questions about religion, her role as a wife, and her upper-class life in a sharply stratified society keep you wondering page after page if she would eventually lose it.
At one point she says, "maybe my pregnancy hormones are skidaddling all over the place. Yes, that must be the reason why I'm eye-focused conscious and eye-blind unconscious, out of control and in control all at the same time" (Hangman's Game, p.69). If you've ever been pregnant (or lived with a pregnant woman) you'd completely understand where she's coming from.
The novel illustrates the frighteningly escalating and deflating parallel states of pregnancy, and societal change. The narrator's pregnant state (in that sense) can be recognized as analogous to the expectations, uncertainties, and the precarious mix of life and death that exist in the two largely unjust societies she writes about.
The Hangman's Game is a fascinating read. It is finely-paced, well-dramatized, and politically assertive.