Chika Unigwe: On Black Sisters’ Street (3 stars)

On Black Sisters' Street

The depiction of modern prostitution is often one-dimensional, something this skilled new writer is seeking to address. Chika Unigwe is Nigerian-born but now lives in Belgium, the setting for this evocative and heartfelt novel. Four African women share a flat in Antwerp, all of them sex workers in the same establishment, having come to Europe through a mutual pimp. When one of them goes missing, then turns up dead, it forces the others to re-evaluate their reasons and motivations for being there.

We have three Nigerians – highly educated but socially disconnected Sisi, single mum Efe and abused Ama – as well as Sudanese refugee Joyce, who all possess poignant and often painful back-stories leading up to their arrivals in a strange continent. This harrowing subject matter is handled deftly by Unigwe, with lyrical insight and splashes of dark humour, in a book that is both thought-provoking and eye-opening.

(Jonathan Cape)

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