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Book Review: SALOU… Tale of of love, tension, and intrigue

(SALOU, by Morenike McFaal; Sub-Saharan Publishers, Accra, Ghana (2022)

Reviewer: Wale Okediran

ALTHOUGH it is tempting to dismiss love stories as being trivial and ‘too common’’ the truth is that romance still remains one of the commonest and gripping themes of many novels, poems and movies. According to estimates, in 2022 alone, romance novels made up about 30 per cent of the overall global fiction. In  the same year, Romance novels generated over $1.44 billion in revenue, making romance the highest-earning genre of fiction in 2022.

What makes Romance the most popular genre in the world? Experts have confirmed that Romance helps grow our understanding of other people. It encourages empathy. In addition, it is believed that Love is more important than money. You work to provide for yourself and your family. Without love there is little to inspire you to work harder or to have nicer things. There is also no one to whom you can leave the things you have worked hard for in life, and you can’t take them with you when you pass away. More importantly, the attraction of a love story is better felt than imagined.

This was exactly how I felt as I went through this 387-page sprawling romance book, SALOU written by Morenike Mcfaal.  Set against activities in three different continents, the book is a vast and ambitious book bristling with information about a wide range of subjects ranging from the Medical Profession, French and African Cultures, Military uprising and more importantly, Love and Romance. The book is also a story of very complex relationships as the line between right and wrong was constantly being challenged.

SALOU is the story of Salou Kassai, a young Medical Doctor of African origin based in Paris, France. She suffered a horrific injury and memory loss after a hit and run accident on her way to work. As Salou struggled to regain her memory, the story shifted back and forth between many characters which included her parents back home in Guinea, Conakry, her Neurosurgeon Dr Alexander Garde De Soos and more importantly, the Neurosurgeon’s son, Dr Benjamin who was directly in charge of Salou’s case. Also involved in Salou’s recovery and painfully long rehabilitation were her friend, Carol, as well as Paul Stewart, an American war correspondence based in Darfur, Sudan who is an old friend to Salou.

Despite her cautious optimism about her future love life, Salou found herself torn between Paul who helped place an advert in the local newspaper that led to her discovery by her parents and the new man in her life, Benjamin, the doctor who helped to heal her physical and mental traumas. According to the author; ‘’As 2007 began, Salou found herself feeling much more grounded, as she tried to keep her bearings in check’’.

Even though Dr Benjamin Garde de Soos was very much aware of the ethics of his medical profession which discouraged doctors from falling in love with their patients, he still found it difficult to keep his mind off his beautiful but relatively unknown patient. Although Benjamin’s father empathized with his son over his romantic dilemma with Salou, his mother, Cecilia, a white French woman would have none of the relationship. This development expectedly created a lot of tension between Benjamin’s parents.

In addition to the tension between Dr and Mrs De Soos, the author also created more tensions between Salou and Benjamin, between Salou and Paul, between Salou and her close friend, Carol as well as between Salou and Benjamin’s daughter, Isabel from his late wife. All these scenarios were expressed in powerful evocative dialogues.

For example, when Salou in her confusion, initially rejected Benjamin’s love advances, the author had this to say of Benjamin; ‘’Dwelling memories of the woman he still called Pearl and his deceased wife seized him. It felt like love had twice failed him’’.

And when Paul wanted to re-establish his relationship with Salou, his old flame, Morenike McFaal put it thus; ‘’He took her hand and peered into her eyes as if in search of a distant time’’.

To add to the book’s suspense, the author also garnished the well-written story with a lot of tear-jerking, cliff cliffhangers to create a remarkable page-turning novel that could leave golf balls in the throats of ardent romantics.

As the book continued in its lovely odyssey, it became clear that Salou’s world was heading into unchartered waters.  Apart from the increasing uncertainties about the direction of her love life, a military coup in her home country of Guinea, Conakry almost claimed the lives of her adoring father, Dr Sheikh Kassai, and other members of her immediate family.

Even after Salou had finally rejected Paul and settled on Benjamin as her husband, the army insurgency in Guinea Conakry also caused a deep rift in her relationship with Benjamin who did not like the increasingly important role that Paul seemed to be playing in his wife’s life.

Although love was the central theme of the book, for a moment, time marched backward to Africa while the love story unfolded. Within the space of a few paragraphs, the narrative shifted from the present to the past and back again.

For example, when the author took Salou and Benjamin to Guinea, Conakry for their traditional engagement ceremony and rites, the narrative might at first seem like a diversion from the main plot. However, the inclusion was not just a professional ploy to lengthen the story. Rather, it would later on play a very crucial part in the book when seemingly inconsequential African traditional beliefs and culture will lead to unforeseen consequences in the lives of the couple in future. As will be later revealed, alliances and oaths formed and taken on African soil will later bestow favors on the young couple years later in the white man’s country.

Reading this book turned out invariably to be an encounter with characters who despite the pains and challenges they went through refused to be downhearted. Rather, through their skills, emotions, and passions one could discern the indomitable human spirit of the refusal to cave in to adversity and sorrow.

The book is full of love, tension, and intrigue, as well as strong memories, characters and moments. It is difficult to believe that the characters that leaped out of the book’s pages came from different cultural and professional backgrounds. Rather, they regale us with a story about a world where life is enjoyable, memorable, and nice to live in despite all the obstacles and occasional challenges.

SALOU  which is available on Amazon.com, is a colorful, well-scripted book by Morenike Mcfaal.  I am eagerly looking forward to her next book.

*Okediran is Secretary General, Pan African Writers Association, PAWA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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