Under the Udala Trees

Chinelo Okparanta

Published: 5 January 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781847088383

About the author

Image of Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. She was one of Granta's New Voices for 2012 and her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her story 'America' was short-listed for the Caine Prize in African Writing. She is a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award for her debut short story collection, Happiness, Like Water (Granta). Her debut novel will be published by Granta in 2015. More about the author


‘[A] remarkable and exquisite first novel about wars - both external and internal - endurance, survival, and love. A coming of age story that demands not just to be not just read, but felt, [it] wraps us in the spell of an exceptionally talented writer and storyteller’ Edwidge Danticat, author



‘[Okparanta's] pared-back, plain prose [is] an effective counterpoint to the drama and horror of war’ Lesley McDowell

‘[The] use of traditional story structure is interwoven with the simple Biblical language... Okparanta's writing is beautiful and moving’

‘[This] debut novel eloquently advocates resisting the narratives handed down by previous generations, and the unadorned eroticism of Ijeoma's relationships with other women is a rebuke to the doctrine that condemns them as an "abomination". Okparanta takes comfort in the capacity for people to change, but her postscript is poignant: in 2014, Nigeria criminalised the very relationships she portrays’ Lettie Kennedy

Under the Udala Trees is an evocative, fiercely told story about a woman's life, about family and love, and about becoming who you are meant to be. Okparanta is an incendiary, essential voice Justin Torres, author

Under the Udala Trees is my favorite debut novel of the year - gorgeous, moving, and entirely hopeful. I wept through the final pages of this beautifully written, extremely necessary book Jami Attenberg, author

Under the Udala Trees [recalls] the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in its powerful interweaving of the personal and the political. Okparanta's simple, direct prose is interspersed with... allegory and folklore and... the dizzying scope of her storytelling keeps you gripped’ Lucy Popescu

Under the Udala Trees has all the ingredients of a great novel: set against the backdrop of war, it tells a story of loss, forbidden love, and one woman's fight against tradition on her journey to becoming who she really is. An African bildungsroman, its direct and folkloric prose captures the spirit and mood of its time and place. This is a brave and timely achievement Helon Habila, author

‘A beautiful and tender coming of age story that opens during the Biafran Civil War and sees our heroine through first love, marriage and motherhood as she struggles with the demands of love and faith’

‘A beautifully written book with some big themes... Yet it manages to have a unique perspective on [them]... This has high hopes for the Baileys Prize... Very smart, but [it] never loses that emotional core’ Anna James

‘A brave novel seeking to challenge prejudice... Okparanta describes with clarity and seeming simplicity states that are not simple at all’ Aida Edemariam

‘A culture of sexual and gender oppression is vividly examined by the Nigerian author who has won the O. Henry Prize and Lambda Award for her short stories. [It] offers a memorable, evocative account of a woman's fight to assert her identity in a country that scorns her’ Sarah Gilmartin

‘A harrowing coming-of-age tale that, with elegant prose, captures the conflict of the time while illustrating how it resounds today. Okparanta shines a light on the plight of the gay community in Nigeria, where its condemnation is tragically not consigned to the history books’ Antonia Charlesworth

‘A searing, yet delicately nuanced, story of an age of innocence first shattered by the vulgarity of war and its aftermath, and then by forbidden desire and religious intolerance. Under the Udala Trees is narrated in lyrical and lucid prose, in a wise and compassionate voice. It bowled me over’ Zakes Mda, author

‘Boldly unadorned and utterly heartbreaking - Okparanta dares to tell a story that the world desperately needs to hear. Almost fable-like in its simplicity... Raw, emotionally intelligent and unflinchingly honest... a triumph Taiye Selasi, author

‘Okparanta has firmly placed her name amongst the ranks of some of our most talented and unflinching writers... A stunning book. Unforgettable’ Maaza Mengiste, author

‘Okparanta is major new voice not only because of her mesmerizing storytelling, but for her bravery and originality. She is a truth teller and soothsayer... Under the Udala Trees is breathtaking, rich with history and heart Tayari Jones, author

‘Okparanta tells a unique and devastatingly hopeful story about the paradox of love: Even in the midst of war, and in a world dominated by violence and prejudice, still, love transcends Mia Couto, author

‘Powerful from page one... Okparanta's writing is perfectly paced and a delicate balance between the poetic and the blunt and sparse. Ijeoma is an exceptional character’ Beth Townsend

‘The characters and the plot are utterly convincing... Okparanta's language choices are also impressive, moving between poetic and prosaic, depending on the requirements of the story... It's almost impossible to believe that Under the Udala Trees is a debut novel. It's beautifully crafted, gripping and heart-breaking with moments of brightness piercing the dark, hostile environment of Christian, patriarchal, heterosexual Nigeria. I'll be astonished if this doesn't make the shortlist of every prize it's eligible for. Chinelo Okparanta is a major new voice in fiction'’ Naomi Frisby

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