Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023. A dazzling story of modern Nigeria and two families caught in the riptides of wealth, power, romantic obsession and political corruption

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s breathtaking novel shines a light on the haves and have-nots of Nigeria, and the shared humanity that lives in between.  

Ẹniọlá is tall for his age, a boy who looks like a man. His father has lost his job, so Ẹniọlá spends his days running errands, collecting newspapers and begging - dreaming of a big future.  Wuraola is a golden girl, the perfect child of a wealthy family, and now an exhausted young doctor in her first year of practice. But when sudden violence shatters a family party, Wuraola and Ẹniọlá’s lives become inextricably intertwined… 

The Booker Prize 2023
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Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

About the Author

Award-winning author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ was born in Nigeria, and now splits her time between Norwich and Lagos
More about Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ on writing A Spell of Good Things

‘The impulse to write often strikes when I’m observing others. Something in a face or manner grabs my attention.  It is rare for me to write about it immediately because I can tell that I’m only glimpsing a shadow. The thing itself might stay hidden for days or even a few years. Ideas, especially the ones that become novels, come to me before I am ready for them. The wait before I write the first sentence is twofold. I wait for the figure casting the shadow I’ve glimpsed to come into view. Then, I wait for my skill as a writer to match up to the demands I feel a story has placed on me.   

At some point in 2012 or 2013, I was on my way home from work and there was traffic on my usual route. The bus driver then drove us through a neighbourhood I’d never been in and found almost unrecognisable. This was in the town my family had lived in since I was eight. A place I thought I knew. Yet, there I was in a neighbourhood more decrepit than I would have believed existed so close to mine.  This experience informed the novel in several ways. It shaped how the story developed into a book about those who can afford to be blind to what’s in front of them and those who cannot.’

Read the full interview here.

A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

What the judges said

‘A Spell of Good Things is an examination of class and desire in modern-day Nigeria. While Ẹniọlá’s poverty prevents him from getting the education he desperately wants, Wuraola finds that wealth is no barrier against life’s harsher realities. A powerful, staggering read.’

What the critics said

Oprah Daily

‘Adebayo is a gifted storyteller, and like her debut novel, Stay with Me, her second book does not disappoint. The thin line between the poor and the wealthy is decimated when the lives of Eniola, an errand boy for a tailor, and Wuraola, a physician, collide. The violence of elections and the empty promises of politicians, the obscene wealth of the connected, the hunger and desperation of the have-nots all intersect in this examination of a community in Nigeria.’

Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

‘Eniola and Wuraola come from different classes in Nigeria, and in this dynamic sophomore novel from Adébáyò, we see how socioeconomic stratification, exacerbated by gender inequality, can destroy lives at all levels. Never mind that these layers are all interdependent and innately connected – a paradox that leads here to a shocking, violent act from which there is no turning back.’

Publishers Weekly

‘Adébáyọ̀ follows up Stay with Me with this bright and distinctive tragedy… The story’s violent denouement is as devastating as it is inevitable. Pitch-perfect details provide a sense of the characters’ lives – the red dust caked on Ẹniọlá’s white socks from long walks to school, the soft headscarf worn by Wúràọlá’s mother that ‘barely whispered’– and as the characters are pushed to the brink, Adébáyọ̀ delivers a searing indictment of the country’s corruption and gender inequalities. This packs a powerful punch.’

Erica Ezeifedi, Book Riot

‘This novel deftly explores class and violence in modern Nigeria. Adébáyọ̀’s characterization is empathetic, but also ruthless when it needs to be. Get ready to cry as you become immersed in a world full of political corruption, balanced with a bit of humor.’

Michael Donkor, The Guardian

‘As with her lauded debut Stay With Me, in Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s second novel domestic strife and the political tensions of modern Nigeria bristle against each other… As the protagonists’ stories are ineluctably drawn together, the compassion Adébáyò feels for her two protagonists is deep and her social consciousness commendable.’

A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀