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Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  886 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to Nigeria—a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts and sense of individuality. Then her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered there, and she didn't return for 10 years.

Recently, she decided to rediscover and come to terms
...more
Paperback, 311 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Granta Books
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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P8tra X
Memoir meets travelogue meets popculture. It's ok, nothing memorable. The only thing I really got from this book was that the general fraudulency and crookedness of Nigeria where the begging letter scam is a whole semi-legitimate business is being replaced by the utter corruption and cruelty of the Islamic movement sweeping the country. It is opposed only by evangelical Christians and that means whatever it is like now it's going to get bloodier and as always with any of these recent Islamic mov ...more
Zanna
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: environment
I imagined this would bear some similarity to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina's Some Day I Will Write About This Place, but there is nothing parallel here to Wainaina's sardonic critique of neo-colonial representations of his country and continent. There isn't time for it! I fear that this, the white 'liberal' clamour to be educated by the 'Other', was what prevented me from connecting with Saro-Wiwa quickly; it took me about 200 pages to warm up to her, more or less as she started to write ap ...more
Nnedi
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was everything I wanted and expected.It took me to all the places in Nigeria that I haven't been able to go and it was from a point of view I could really relate to (that of an outsider, an insider and neither). Noo (properly pronounced "Naw") has written a very rare and insightful book that shows sides of Nigeria that are not explored enough. And this book has moments that were funny as hell (my favorite was when a woman shouted, "You're crazy!" at a danfo driver that drov ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I thoroughly enjoyed this, somewhat to my surprise, since I am often impatient with travelogue segments in fiction. But then, a nonfiction travel book succeeds if it informs and entertains the reader with information about a place, while fictional travels all too often serve as cover for lack of plot.

And this book both informs and entertains. Saro-Wiwa is Nigerian by birth, but was raised and currently lives in England. After years of avoiding her home country, following uncomfortable childhood
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John
Author (who's first name is pronounced "gnaw") travels through several regions of Nigeria in an attempt to determine how much she fits in there, having lived in England almost her entire life, except for extended summer visits "back home" as a child. Other readers have criticized the book for her flying visits from city to city, which I found to be the point -- the country is so diverse that nowhere (except perhaps Lagos) is particularly "typically" Nigerian. Final chapter in her hometown of Por ...more
Beverly
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
My thoughts:
• I really enjoyed this book – it is part travelogue, part memoir, part history lesson, part commentary written in an engaging thoughtful informative manner.
• I have read several books on Nigeria but most of the books concentrated on one region or a specific conflict regarding a specific event or a specific ethnic group. But this book gave me a great introduction to Nigeria as a whole and as separate regions – it open up my eyes on how much more I have to learn.
• I especially liked h
...more
Marieke
i read this rather impulsively as soon as I found out about it. I've read a lot of Nigerian literature over the past few years and I have done quite a bit of nonfiction reading of Nigeria too. Nigeria is one of those beguilingly complex countries that i don't ever want to stop learning about and someday i would like to be able to visit it. But in the meantime, Saro-Wiwa's book was a good stand-in for that trip that may never happen, taking me to a lot of the areas that i have read and learned ab ...more
Al
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
The most interesting thing for me in this book, as a Northern Nigerian, is how uncomfortable Noo was in the North. How, somehow, a lot of the people she met and interacted with over there were still Southerners. Although, I know, without a doubt, that I would feel the same in the South (except that I'd be able to communicate with more people because I speak English). And there's the rub -- can you write about a people without being able to communicate with them? Can you write about a people with ...more
Mark Staniforth
Jan 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Reading Noo Saro-Wiwa's account of her travels in Nigeria, Looking For Transwonderland (pub. Granta), it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the current wave of Islamist terror gripping the country's north was inevitable, if not overdue.
That a hopelessly corrupt and wholly uncontrollable nation of upwards of one hundred and sixty million people, swinging from strict Sharia law in cities like Kano to evangelical christianity in Lagos, has survived so long as a single entity seems remarkable
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Jendella
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
At first I wasn't so sure about Looking for Transwonderland... Noo Saro-Wiwa's conflicted relationship with the country made me feel earlier on somewhat uncomfortable with her commentary, but as I got further into the book I did feel like I was on the journey with her as her hesitations, fears and frustrations were addressed and answered - in part. She does an excellent job of painting a realistic picture of Nigeria with all it's flaws and glory. There is also some interesting cultural and polit ...more
Simon
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating, if somewhat depressing, look at modern Nigeria from the point of view of a Nigerian raised in the UK. The author's relationship with Nigeria is complicated by her murdered activist father's story and her discomfort with certain aspects of her cultural homeland make for some interesting clashes. Saro-Wiwa explores many different regions and aspects of Nigeria and its history (although in the end this is more of a personal travelogue than a history or sociology book) in a lively and ...more
Mary Case
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am enjoying an education on a country I know very little about. I was wishing for a map of Nigeria in the book. Have a map handy. Also, I found many pics online of the various sites and cities. The book is decent but Nigeria doesn't seem like a very nice place. It points out how Nigeria used to be an educated, progressive country but has since become plagued with a religious & ideological fervor where environmental degradation and poverty rule. Nigeria has recently become the largest economy ...more
Aloke
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Saro-Wiwa is not a spectacular writer but she is a great travelling companion and when she comes to the end of her strange journey you want her to just keep on writing about wherever she goes next. I do wish there had been a map included, here's a good one if you want to see where she went: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld.... ...more
Stephen
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
interesting and sometimes funny travelogue of the daughter of ken saro-wiwa as she remembers her childhood memories whilst visiting modern day nigeria
Anetq
May 22, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 50africanwomen
Is it a travel book? She tries going to the barely existing tourist sites across Nigeria and laments the disrepair and shoddy conditions - actually sort of proclaiming the British Museum defence of stolen culture and artefacts "They can't look after it themselves"...
Is it a 'going back to find yourself'-book? She travels to visit family and in her famous father's footsteps, but there are few and far between reflections on her feelings doing this.
There is however a lot of descriptions. Of the cit
...more
Farah Aden
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Noo Saro-Wiwa has a flair for writing. From a language perspective, this is a beautifully written book, with very rich passages. Many sentences are a real work of art. Very cleverly crafted.
As for the content, I really felt like I was experiencing Nigeria in all its woes and wonders. I enjoyed the book but I wasn't addicted to it or desperate to carry on reading. And yet, with each chapter, I became pleasantly surprised by a completely different landscape of Nigeria. From bustling markets, to B
...more
Alison Hardtmann
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book


Noo Saro-Wiwa is the daughter of human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was murdered by the Nigerian government as part of their efforts to keep Shell Oil Company happy. Sara-Wiwa grew up in Britain, but spent her summers in Nigeria until her father's burial, at which point she never returned. Now, decades later, she returns to travel all over the enormous (much larger than Texas) and diverse country. Looking for Transwonderland is her account of her travels.

Saro-Wiwa is the ideal traveling c
...more
Al
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
I need to watch one of these Nollywood films Noo keeps falling asleep to.
Kemi
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. We don't hear enough stories about Africa written by Africans. That obviously creates a disparity in representation. Views can be stereotypical -- I remember the photo floating around the web a few months ago about how all books about Africa had a picture of sunset over the Serengeti with a giraffe or elephant in silhouette.

Africa isn't ALL like that.

Which is one of reasons why I REALLY liked Noo (pronounced gnaw) Saro-Wiwa's travel memoir. It was honest. It was her experi
...more
Larissa
A really interesting portrait of and travelogue about Nigeria, made all the more interesting by the fact that the author, Noo Saro-Wiwa is herself Nigerian, but grew up in England and then stopped going back to the country all together after the murder of her activist father. This is by no means a memoir. Saro-Wiwa's does occasionally dip into her own and her family's personal history, but always maintains a certain distance from events in her past and doesn't delve too much into her own emotion ...more
Brian
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: the economist
(4.0) Kind of a travelogue mixed in with semi-nostalgic childhood memories in Nigeria

Noo (pronounced something close to "gnaw", apparently) returns to Nigeria, her birth home, from London, where she moved to as a child. She returns to places she visited while growing up and approaches many of the locations from both aspects. A very honest and in-the-moment account of her several weeks' trip to Nigeria (the specific purpose wasn't clear...perhaps it was primarily to write this book while also vis
...more
Muphyn
May 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Travel enthusiasts and those interested in Nigeria
I did it!! I read a book club book for Great African Reads on time!!! :D

Really quite enjoyed the insight into life and culture in Nigeria through the eyes of expat Noo Saro-Wiwa. Gives you a great sense of the place, especially the diversity of tribes, languages and cultures right across Nigeria. Saro-Wiwa's travel memoir nicely interweaves history with current affairs, observations of daily life and her - sometimes hilarious - explorations of 'tourist attractions', and throughout, she manages t
...more
Bettie
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: R4 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wendy Lavery
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating, moving and sometimes funny travel book/memoir telling the story of the author's trip to her homeland, Nigeria. She found it frustrating at times and documents her thoughts and memories honestly, at times painfully. It is a very good read, especially if you like travel and memoir. ...more
Katie
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this book for the varied information provided about Nigeria. The personal story of the author felt a bit lacking somehow. Perhaps she held back too much for that aspect of the book to make an impact on me. The book as a whole was very interesting for me as a reader as I had little knowledge of Nigeria.
Barbie N
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written view of Nigeria

A great view of the complex country of Nigeria. Sari is Nigerian, but she's also not, having grown up in England. This gives her a wonderfully unique and honest perspective, one that westerners can grasp. Her writing is outstanding. I highly recommend this book!
...more
Kingsley Oteng
Admittedly knowing a bit about the author’s story lead me to ‘Looking For Transwonderland’. But my expectations were for a highly personal account of a decade following tragedy and the coming of age of a writer, however the book was surprisingly not quite what I’d expected; although many writers come to mind who have tackled neo-imperialism few were as instinctive as Noo.
Nina ( picturetalk321 )
Dazzling. What a mesmerising, absorbing, interesting, at times funny, always well-written travel account. Noo Saro-Wiwa moved to England when young and was taken back to her home town in Nigeria every summer holiday by her father, an activist who was killed in a political assassination. She hated those holidays and wanted to go to the beach like her friends but this book documents her four-month trip back to Nigeria as an adult, on her own steam.

Saro-Wiwa is part insider, part outsider, and this
...more
Ope' Aweda
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
A mediocre travel book. Saro-Wiwa is too often unwilling to engage with other people along the way. For example, when visiting the (underwhelming, powerless) National Museum in Lagos, she is annoyed when the staffers focus on a German tourist: "All interest in me disappeared. I felt irked. Why focus all their attention on this German when they'd be better off getting a juicy tip fro him and me both?" Instead of learning anything from the museum employees, she takes it as an opportunity to be off ...more
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