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Summary of In Dependence

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In Dependence is a book by Sarah Ladipo Manyika and UTME candidates are to be tested on the novel, irrespective of the course you registered for. Here is a summary of In Dependence to give you a hint on what the book is all about.

Note that it is advisable for you to still read the main novel in order to be well grounded.

Summary of In Dependence

About the Author

Sarah Ladipo Manyika was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, and England. She holds a Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, and currently teaches literature at San Francisco State University. Her writing includes essays, academic papers, reviews and short stories. Her second novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun was published April 1, 2016 by Cassava Republic Press (Abuja-London). Her debut novel, In Dependence was published by Legend Press (London) and Cassava Republic Press.

About the Novel

In Dependence was published in the UK in 2008; in Nigeria in 2009 and in the US in 2011. It is Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s  debut  novel. The novel begins in the early 1960s when Tayo Ajayi meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer. Their story, which spans three continents and four turbulent decades, is that of a brave but bittersweet love affair.  It is the story of individuals struggling to find their place within uncertain political times – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal.

Although, In Dependence can suitably pass for a love story, it is far more than that, as it also traces the journey of the political history of Nigeria; the military coups, the bad and deceitful leadership and its experimental steps towards democracy/civilian rule. 

Also, it brings the social realities of Nigeria into light- a situation where the poor get poorer everyday without any improvement. With the events surrounding Tayo’s life, Sarah Manyika brings to limelight the effects of bad governance on the country’s tertiary institutions (universities) and the ensuing massive brain drain that Africa has experienced. There are also issues of racial discrimination and cultural dichotomy and we see Tayo, Vanessa and other characters live their lives amidst these issues.

Outside the political spheres, In Dependence is Tayo and Vanessa’s story of a brave but bittersweet love affair. It is the story of two people struggling to find themselves and each other – a story of passion and idealism, courage and betrayal, and the universal desire to fall, madly and deeply in love.

Furthermore, it is a convincing narrative on the price we pay for the decisions we make in our lives, whether right or wrong; and life sometimes is just about doing what makes you happy regardless of people’s opinions. Unfortunately, most of African cultures reject such philosophy. For us, life is not only about the individual but also about family, relatives, communities, tradition, culture etc.

Through an authentic and objective voice, the novelist ensures that all these realities that characterize Nigeria and Africa at large are adequately portrayed in her story. 

Summary/Plot Account of the Novel

Sarah Ladipo Manyika novel which showcases the love affair of two main characters (Tayo and Vanessa) begins with these lines:

One could begin with the dust, the heat and the purple bougainvillea. One might even begin with the smell of rotting mangos tossed by the side of the road where the flies hummed and green-bellied lizards bobbed their orange heads while loitering in the sun. But Tayo did not notice these – instead he walked in silence, oblivious to his surroundings.

It is the early-sixties (1963 to be precise) when a young Tayo Ajayi sails to England from Nigeria to take up a scholarship at Oxford University. Nigeria has been independent from British colonial rule for just 3 years and Tayo is part of the newly educated generation eager to take up educational opportunities abroad so that they can return to their country and help it become successful. With high hopes for the future of Nigeria and confident in his own ability to make a difference, Tayo throws himself into Oxford life, but a romantic attachment to a white Englishgirl, Vanessa, derails his plans. In this city of dreaming spires, he finds himself among a generation, high on visions of a new and better world. The whole world seems ablaze with change: independence at home, the Civil Rights movement and the first tremors of cultural and sexual revolutions. It is then that Tayo meets Vanessa Richardson, the beautiful daughter of an ex-colonial officer and a racist. When they first meet, Tayo and Vanessa are drawn to each other, him to her because she’s different than women he knows in Nigeria; her to him because she seems to have a fascination with all things from the continent of Africa. 

As their relationship progresses, it seems that her love for him is also rooted in antagonizing her conservative, colonialist father who is also a racist. Their love affair faces lots of challenges with racism as its major challenge. It could not survive the pressure of racism from passersby, policemen and especially Vanessa’s father who is a self proclaimed racist.

Tayo also worries about whether his own family will accept Vanessa, and whether she will be able to live in African society. On her part, Vanesa begins to wonder if she is simply something for Tayo to do until he meets a Nigerian woman, as she has witnessed with friends of his.

Many of the problems, however, are of their own making – they hold back from saying what they feel, they miscommunicate, misunderstand, lash out and they are unfaithful. Then, fate and politics intervene at crucial points – as Tayo is about to propose, he gets a telegram saying his father is dying and he has to return to Nigeria. Tayo leaves England with every intention of returning to Vanessa but first, he is delayed by his father’s illness and then a military coup. Much later, he is about to visit Vanessa in England but is arrested on his way to the airport. Consequently, Tayo resigns himself to staying in Nigeria and marrying a local woman. 

Vanessa hopes for two things: marry Tayo and return to Nigeria with him and also become a respected journalist. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen the way she has hoped and due to circumstances beyond her control (and her stubbornness in some part) she ends up marrying an older white man and adopting the child of a Senegalese friend. She does, however, become the respected journalist that she has hoped to be.

Tayo later meets with Vanessa many years later and this meeting provides him with an opportunity to rekindle his romance with her, but just like their earlier encounters, it feels stiff and wooden.

Tayo and Vanessa end up living their lives independent of each other but no matter what they did, and where they were, the thoughts and love they had for each other lingered on (even though the other didn’t necessarily know). I guess love really does stand the test of time. 

Also Read: Role of Some Characters From “In Dependence”

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