Book Review – Everyday is for the Thief

Nigerian fiction stories, book reviews, teju cole

I will be writing what I call a lazy review for Every Day Is For The Thief, mainly because I just wasn’t feeling it. Now, this could be because I read it in between a binge of the Game of Thrones books.

It’s difficult to appreciate anything else after spending so much time in Westeros. Whatever it was, I couldn’t connect with the story. However,  it was a decent book and I feel obliged to talk about it.

Every Day Is For The Thief begins with a young man going to get his Nigerian Passport renewed at the consulate, he runs some trouble with the Nigerian Way of doing things and he spends more time than necessary running his errand because he doesn’t know the way.

Honestly, I quickly got tired of the one person narrative thing, I felt like I was reading the diary of an old man longing for the good old days or something. You are supposed to be getting a feel of Nigeria through the eyes of a visiting/potential returnee but the observations he makes is nothing new, the manner of presentation felt like a long complaint, I just didn’t enjoy it.

There are some redeeming qualities for the book though when we get out of the head of the character/writer and he’s narrating events that occurred to him and other people. Those stories I found interesting and I’ll admit I skipped most of the novel till I got to those parts.

For example:

…Our wait in the field in Surulere is only the latest in a long series of delays. Already, hundreds of dollars have been spent on bribes and unofficial taxes. The previous day, we received a dressing-down from a customs officer at the port who was enraged that his colleague had left him out of the take. And the container is two weeks late. Two weeks and four hours. Then it arrives. Godot is here, says my uncle. Godot’s been rigged to a flatbed trailer, brought through the highways and winding streets from Apapa to Surulere.

The trailer pulls into the field… The container is opened quickly, and we started unloading it. When about half of the boxes have been brought down, the driver of the trailer and his assistant set up a winch and an incline. One of the school bus drivers gets inside the Civic and very gently eases it out of the container down into the field. It gleams, looks as good as new compared to the other cars, which have suffered the streets of Lagos. That is when they come in. Three of them. Even from the distance it is obvious that this is trouble. We stop arranging boxes.


I think the over-description of the scenes is where I lost interest, it is the same reason I still haven’t read more than 20 pages of Oil on Water in 3 weeks. It just doesn’t feel natural, the time spent to describe a scene; Come to think of it, that was also a narrative from one man’s perspective. I think I’ve found my problem.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments

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  1. I don’t know. Maybe my opinion was already biased by your review, I didn’t even enjoy reading the excerpt you posted. I couldn’t finish it. Oh well.

    1. ? Lol, Oh well. Life is too short and there are so many books waiting to be read.

  2. You don’t really like “one person” narratives and over-description- I think that’s “your problem”. 😉 But Purple Hibiscus is a very good “one person” narrative. It’s called the first person point of view, no?
    Anyways, I read this book in secondary school, but I can’t remember much of it. It was quite nice then, I think. Maybe I’ll try and read it again.
    Speaking of over-description, have you read any of Dean Koontz’s books? Chai! That man is the Kabiyesi of over-describers. His “wordiness” kills the story many times!

    1. I think it’s over description that kills my interest, as opposed to the narrative. Purple Hibiscus is the perfect way to do this: Kambili sees things in interesting ways; she doesn’t just tell you what’s happening around her.
      As for Dean Koontz, i think i have read only one of his books ‘The house of thunder’, but that was a time when i read newspapers for fun, you know…
      These days, i need real stimulation.