My name is Toni is a novel about a young Kenyan girl who travels to Toulouse, France, to pursue her studies. It is the journey of her struggles as she manoeuvres life in a new city, with limited language skills. It is the story of her growing up into a woman, falling in and out of love, discovering her sexuality. It is semiautobiographical as the story has similarities in bits and pieces to that of the life of the author; a Kenyan French immigrant.
The book “My Name is Toni” is every Nairobian who wishes to travel to France’s dream come true. The Nairobi reader is taken through familiar every day surroundings. The Good Shepherd Church along Ngong Road in Nairobi for example is a church I have known all my life. The author juxtaposes this with the unfamiliar Toulouse in France the pink city as it is nicknamed in a land far far away. Indeed we are all citizens of one world despite our different geographical locations.
We are taken straight to the childhood of the book's main character Toni, a girl passionate about French. As I read along I wonder, “Why does this story sound like my own?” Indeed many will have similar childhood trajectories to Toni’s if you grew up in our beloved Nai in the 1980s.
I am quite enthused by the way Waithira Francis introduces the erotic to the story and takes me way back to teenagehood, many women can relate to their early emerging sexuality. As a lifestyle blogger I realize that not many African writers introduce the erotic to their work, but Waithira does just that when the main character Toni meets her first crush in life. Kudos Waithira for treading on the not commonly charted waters in this side of the world.
The book is an easy and relaxing read best read on a vacation, or on one’s favorite sofa and sipping one’s favourite drink. Please set aside time for it as you may not be able to put it down until done. One is taken through the tumultuous love life of one Toni and one cannot help but notice the cyclic nature of all the men she attracts in her life; transient and somewhat abusive relationships. Which reminds me of something that I once read somewhere; ‘What makes a woman attract the type of men she does?’ A wake up call perhaps to my fellow women folk who find themselves in cyclical abusive relationships. Or a take home from women who always seem to attract the cream of men in society, time and time again. How do they do it? Or is it just good luck for one to have a good man in ones life.
The book demystifies sex and one must tread on it with an open mind. To be honest I found myself blushing 1001 shades of red in certain sexcapades and learning a sex technique or two for myself. Sigh. One feels the contradictory emotions in Toni's life between her African cultural upbringing and the European life that she is now exposed to.
As is common to many women, when in warm and satisfying romantic and sexual relationships they tend to excel in other aspects of their lives and the converse is also true with toxic relationships being the bane of many a woman’s life. We can only wish that Toni will eventually find peace and satisfaction in her love life as this seems to take centre stage in her life and we eventually lose the Toni that had left Kenya in pursuit of life long dreams and goals in France and this had me disappointed to a fault a I wanted to read more about Toni and her other exploits and passions from her life in the West.
Waithira Francis a.k.a Caroline Allegret writes sensually, simply and beautifully, merging two different worlds; the African and the European. I look forward to the next read, always a pleasure supporting one of our own Kenyan writers. Caroline Allegret was in Kenya recently for the official launch of her book amidst a lot of pomp and colour.
The book is available as follows:
In Kenya: Call Jane on 0722751035
In Europe: Inbox or call Caroline Allegret on +33675648875
In the UK: Inbox MaryAnne Loiacono
It’s also available on Amazon, but if somebody wants a signed copy, it’s advisable to inbox Caroline Allegret directly from her facebook page and she will mail the copy to you directly which costs the same as purchasing the book from Amazon.
Congratulations Caroline! We await the sequel.
© Kwambie Nyambane,