Dangerously good: Dangerous Love by Ben Okri

Okri has written the perfect elegy of a doomed love affair. In Dangerous Love, the star-crossed lovers are not only battling with the tensions of a problematic relationship but also their own very difficult personal circumstances and confusions.

This enables Okri to paint a very complex portrait of his characters, to elevate Dangerous Love from a simple love story along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, which has already been retold plenty, to a book that tackles identity and modernity. His hero Omovo is a beautiful character. He is sensitive and naïve but never once irritating for it: Omovo questions, probes, retaliates – and is forever caught between a difficult reality and an even more sticky mental disposition. Okri is not content with having readers merely connect with Omovo, and through his careful characterisation, Okri ensures that readers breathe simultaneously with the enchanting, living creature he has created. The precision of Okri’s prose – his most realistic I have read – makes this an absolute certainty.

The same goes for Ifewiya. She could easily have been painted flatly as the object of affection who cannot escape her marriage as much as she cannot escape her society’s customs. In Okri’s hands, Ifewiya’s portrait is smooth and three-dimensional: her circumstances are the subject of countless books and films and yet Okri tells her story anew. What a deeply moving character she becomes!

An absorbing read from the first page to the last, Dangerous Love is filled with fine imagery, delicate prose and classic characters.

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