Feminist murder

In Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel "My Sister, the Serial Killer", men are either dead, doomed or in a coma

  • 02.04.2020

Oyinkan Braithwaite / Photo: Hannah Assouline/Opale/Leemage/laif

Femi gets the collar right on the first page. Ayoola rams her 22-centimeter knife straight into his heart. Then she stabs you two more times, sure enough. The carnage she caused in her lover’s apartment, however, is then cleaned up by her sister Korede, who is actually a nurse and was sitting at dinner when she got the call from Ayoola. It was not the first of its kind. Korede knows from experience: bleach removes even the nastiest stains. She even covers up the smell of blood.

A strange solidarity connects the two Nigerian sisters, although they don’t have that much in common at all. Already externally: "Ayoola is small, while I am over one meter eighty tall; Ayoola’s skin color is something between cream and caramel, mine, on the other hand, is that of a Brazil nut before shelling, it consists only of curves, I am composed exclusively of hard edges." While Ayoola is the mother’s darling and she drives all men crazy, Korede is responsible to the point of self-sacrifice. The mismatched pair of women shapes this somewhat different family story more than the stabbings Ayoola hosts on her dates – and where Korede regularly has to bail her out.

Braithwaite turns one of the most proven narrative conventions around

Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite scored a hit with her darkly comic debut novel. It was showered with positive reviews and nominated for the Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. Behind the quickly told thriller plot lurks a complex social panorama of contemporary Nigeria. Because the cohesion of the two sisters is fed by a violent past: their father not only did crooked business, but also regularly beat up his wife, and the daughters right along with him. In this respect, Korede is not only envious of Ayoola, she is also her protector at the same time. At least until Tade shows up, the fancy senior doctor Korede has picked out for himself. Stupidly, he also falls under Ayoola’s spell. And plunges Korede into a dilemma: Should she warn him?? And thereby betray her sister?

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"My Sister, the Serial Killer" is Oyinkan Braithwaite’s first novel, 240 pages long and published by Blumenbar in March.

Men are either dead, doomed or in a coma in Oyinkan Braithwaite’s feminist family thriller. Like Muhtar, whom Korede visits daily in his hospital room and to whom she tells about her serial-killing sister. She does not have someone else to listen to. But Muhtar, although his family has already given up on him, unexpectedly wakes up from his coma one day – and slowly, slowly, he begins to remember what Korede told him.

For all the suspense, the feminist tendencies in the novel are not neglected. Because, on the one hand, he turns around an age-old narrative convention: In many books, after all, it’s the women who die. As the master storyteller Edgar Allan Poe, who also invented the detective story, knew: "There is no more poetic subject than the death of a beautiful woman. In "My Sister, the Serial Killer," on the other hand, the woman causes many deaths. On the other hand, Korede and Ayoola live in a deeply patriarchal society – in which fathers decide on the marriage of their daughters, tribal chiefs are guaranteed wives, and men chastise women with sticks as a matter of course. But the young women in this novel find their ways to free themselves. And these are sometimes bloody.

Cover photo: Hannah Assouline/Opale/Leemage/laif

This text is published under the license CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE. The photos may not be used.

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