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How does a woman culturally bound to never express love for her child keep his memory alive when he dies? How does she grieve the loss of a child to whom she offered no warmness? How can taboo love liberate a woman made to believe that sexual expression is a show of whoredom? What happened to Nigeria up north? These are some of the questions that Abubakar explores in his novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms.

Season is a narrative that brings together several accounts of cultural deviancy in Northern Nigeria. The work is significant as a resource for understanding the psychological landscape of Northern Nigeria, which until now, has appeared impenetrable. It also demystifies the culture’s feminine construct, which has always seemed as unflappable to those outside the culture.

In this Marquez-styled story, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim invents life, offering the reader a perspective on the undercurrents of human idiosyncrasies. He addresses questions that show the moral complexities of life. His characters’ lives explore emotions like doubts, fears, pain, anger, and love, and offer meaning to nothing.

The novel which is set in the imbroglio climate of the election period is told in two parts: ‘The Second Birth of Hajiya Binta Zubairu (1956 – 2011, and beyond) and ‘The miseducation of Hassan ‘Reza’ Babale (1986 – 2011 and beyond…perhaps). It narrates the forbidden love affair between fifty-five-year-old widow, Binta Zubairu, and Hassan Babale, known as Reza, a local thug who appears to have just moved into his twenties. Reza is the lord of San Siro—an uncompleted building where societal rejects reclaim their lives and harass the community.

The novel begins in medias res when Binta is burgled by Reza. From this time, the reader is not the only one thrown into the middle of happenings. Binta experiences a ‘rebirth’ that changes her life, her perception and her desires. She sees in Reza her dead son, Yaro, to whom traditional Fulani culture prevents her from expressing love.

After the encounter with Reza, the former resolved-to-the-life-I-know Binta begins to ponder the values of her past as she grows warm thoughts for a rogue she would typically find despicable. Reza also realizes that something has changed in him when he decides to returns what he stole from her. A covert love affair begins.

Despite the generational gap between them and the consciousness of public knowledge, Reza becomes Binta’s redemption, as well as an awakening from the insipidity of her sexual life with Zubairu, her late husband.

Despite their best attempt to keep their love from prying eyes, they are sighted by Mallam Haruna, a suitor whose jealousy gets him to seek counsel from the Ustaz, and later, Binta’s son, Munkaila.

The redemption Binta seeks for herself is not what society holds up as moral. “How could the world not understand what he was going through,” she wonders, “how he needed her, how she needed to save him as she had failed to do with her own son? How could they judge her?”

Her passionate ‘love’ to save Reza only ends in the loss of a life that she values so much—her only living son. In all of this, the writer does not condemn, the characters do.

In Season of Crimson Blossoms, the reader learns to care about the characters because they come carrying burdens, and just like Binta was moved to help Reza, the reader desires to help. The characters in this novel are bountiful and memorable and alive. The story manages the lives of each character well enough, and there is no chaotic misunderstanding of portrayal. Every character in the novel reveals the many side of the national story, from the northerner’s perspectives.

Through characters like San Siro-Dogo, Gattuso, Dan Asabe and several others, the novel explores the humanity of criminals. The suffering caused by the ethno-religious conflicts that have encircled Northern Nigeria is explored in the character of Fa’iza, who suffers trauma and depression after watching the gruesome murder of her brother in the Jos Carnage. In Fa’iza’s friends—Abida and Kareema—the reader sees teenage foibles, the complexities of social expectations, and evolving concept of commercial literacy assimilation, in their Soyaya Novels. In Senator Buba Maikudi, the decadence of Nigeria’s political landscape is evident, as he ‘undermines’ the value of education to achieve his selfish interest. He makes a cat’s paw of Reza until he becomes a “liability” to him. Reza is how he achieves political gain, using the thug to kidnap his opponent’s loved ones and cause disruption during campaign rallies. The corruption of the Nigerian Police Force comes under scrutiny with the likes of corrupt officers like Dauda Baleri. All these characters are developed and integrated in the narrative through well-managed dialogues and a carefully conceived plot.

Anyone who is familiar with Abubakar’s work, especially his award-winning collection of short stories, The Whispering Trees, would observe that he has heightened his usage of the ornate language for unveiling the human mind. However in this new work, language is not only a sign of Abubakar’s style, it characterizes the creation of setting and characters. It is embedded in the symbols of flowers, of cockroaches and of a looming fringe of a frail relationship in a state waiting to boil. It sometimes comes across as superfluous too. Yet, the novel exemplifies careful writing. The language ties itself to everything in the book.

The somberness in the novel is evident. And when Munkaila dies, it is not only Binta that recognizes the fragility of dreams but the reader as well. Season of Crimson Blossoms testifies to the fact that it is time to hear the untold stories of Northern Nigeria—stories that leap beyond the sensationalism of the media, but of the imagination, the experiences, and the absurdity of those fringe realities of a people’s mundane reality.



About the Author


About the Author

Jumoke-verissimoJumoke Verissimo is the author of two poetry collections. I am memory (Dada Books, 2008), and recently published, The Birth of Illusion (Fullpoint, 2015). She is a recipient of the Chinua Achebe Centre Fellowship.

I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

4 Responses to “Review: Forbidden Love and Northern Nigerian Riddles in Abubakar Ibrahim’s Debut Novel | by Jumoke Verissimo” Subscribe

  1. Hannah 2016/02/03 at 4:29 am #

    Incidentally, I just finished reading it yesterday! The author’s use of language was amazing, there was a haunting beauty to phrases, sentences, so that I often had to go back and read them again. You’re right there on the pages with the characters, empathizing with them. Fa’iza was a favorite of mine, with her teenage crushes and passion for soyayya novels, swinging hips and all. Loved it.

    I lived in Jos for years and many of the Hausa phrases, foods, issues with the riot and all, brought back memories. The dialogue was fantastic and natural. Life in the North, bar the prevalence of Islam and a couple of differences in culture, is the same as that elsewhere in Nigeria, with the same issues of love, money, societal expectations, hoodlums, etc. I would recommend it to everyone.

  2. Swoosh 2016/02/03 at 12:34 pm #

    I loved The Whispering Trees and I can’t wait to read his new book.

  3. A.A.Rufai 2016/02/04 at 10:06 pm #

    Believe it or not, Mallam Haruna is one of my favorites. I sympathize with him. As a northerner, I can’t imagine myself trying to take on a ‘pious’ woman for a wife only to discover she is having IT, sacrilegiously, with a gangster!


  1. Jumoke Verissimo reviews Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim | Books LIVE - 2016/02/09

    […] Complete review in Brittle Paper […]

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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