Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta review – love and conflict during the Nigerian civil war

A young gay woman looks for forgiveness from God in a brave novel seeking to challenge prejudice ‘Midway between Old Oba-Nnewi Road and New Oba-Nnewi Road, in that general area bound by the village church and the primary school … ” Under the Udala Trees begins in the same way that many of the short stories in Chinelo Okparanta’s debut Happiness, Like Water did: with a clear, attentive setting-down of the parameters of place – streets and street names, houses and bushes, trees and walls – and how they make sense of each other, protect each other. “Ours was a gated compound, guarded at the front by thickets of rose and hibiscus bushes.” The descriptions are cool, exact; yet what grows out of these carefully laid beginnings is a story with the highest of stakes. First comes the war: the little compound is in Biafra, and within a year the area ...