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Review//Madhouse-T.J Benson

SUMMARY
Title: The Madhouse
Genre: Fiction
Author: Tj Benson
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Masobe
Year of Publication: 2021
Number of Pages: 313
ISBN: 978-1-4859-0415-1
Reviewer: Testimony Akinkunmi
a table showing the madhouse review

THE MADHOUSE is the second of Tj Benson books, the first he is getting as a Masobe author. The book is a reminder to hold on, breathe deep or get lost in a subjective world of madness.

The Madhouse is a rhapsody of narratives, intimacies, and the unorthodox. And house number 37 on Freetown Street, Old Quarters, Sabon Gari is the cardinal point. The house is a comfort for foreigners from the heat and travails during colonial times. Years later, Sweet Pea and Shariff would find the same strange assistance within the same walls. Succor that would be questioned by ‘the women of Freetown Street, who chorused, “God of Elijah, send down faya with flame torches in their hand.”’ And strays who want to find out what is special about the Madhouse.

Set in the 1990s, the Madhouse would be the slight aftertaste of Ben Okri’s The Famished Road in how the sentences flow and the plot moves. The viscerality of shared dreams looks less taboo and more like a miracle in how Tarfa Jason Benson explains the phenomenon of Macmillan finding himself in Andre’s dream. The author’s note reminds you that he knew there would be queries about some elements of his book. So, it should be fewer questions, more understanding.

This book is for you if you love authentic multi-perspectives in a novel, with each character living life to its fullest, having maniacal dreams and wayward intimacy. But in the same breath, different nostalgic Nigerian songs are scattered like aesthetic bread crumbs around the books. A queer and ominous reminder that there isn’t one way to tell this story. 

The Madhouse takes you to Amsterdam, India, and then, with a thud, back to Nigeria, with a simple tune of disorganization and poverty weaved to mean child-friendly and untouched by the state of affairs in the country. The loss of innocence leaks from father and mother to sons, then daughter {Ladidi}. So that even when it means death, you take hand to eye, wishing them to hope as the military dictatorship grows.

  

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