When Segun Afolabi’s début collection of stories, _A Life Elsewhere_, was published to some acclaim last year, reviewers, including this one, used words such as ‘home’, ‘belonging’ and ‘exile’.
In his first novel, *Goodbye Lucille*, Afolabi has taken these concerns and spun them around a central character, once again adrift in an indifferent world. The book is set in Berlin, or rather West Berlin, as the timeframe is the early 1980s. Vincent, a Nigerian orphan, overweight and dissatisfied, is eking out a marginal existence as a freelance photographer and engaging in a semi-detached relationship with his girlfriend, Lucille, who lives in London. Vincent spends his days avoiding photo-shoot commissions and his nights in an alcoholic blur in the nightclubs of Berlin with his friends, a disparate group of slackers, exiles and misfits. His life is going nowhere slowly when a series of seemingly unrelated events shake him out of his torpor. The murder of a politician, a letter from home and random meeting with a girl in a bar combine to send Vincent’s life in an unforeseen and, at first at least, unwelcome direction.
For much of its length – mirroring its central character – this is a drifting, moody, introspective book. As it ambles along, the reader is gradually accustomed to the repetitive pattern of Vincent’s life and the growing imperative that something – anything – occurs to disturb his apathetic acceptance of an undervalued existence. *Goodbye Lucille* delivers on the promise of Afolabi’s début collection: it is an admirable first novel, tackling honestly and at length the knotty conundrums of identity and personal history that are the bedrock of his writing.
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