IGBOLAND is a romantic novel of passion, conflict and adventure. While it is a work of fiction, it is inspired by the diary, photos and stories of my parents who lived out in Nigeria for six years.
My Mum’s diary is full of intriguing details and incidents, although it is important to note that IGBOLAND is a work of fiction with characters very different to my parents, Janet and Gerald Gardiner. Below is an extract from my Janet’s diary. The Igbo girl, Rachel, became the inspiration for the character Grace in IGBOLAND. Although Grace’s character experiences different challenges – the tone and the mood made a big impression on me, and I hoped to capture that same sense of suffering and hardship. Read the novel to see how I went from this, to the story of Grace.
FROM THE DIARY OF JANET GARDINER
3rd December 1967
“Gerald took us up to Oturkpo hospital to visit an Igbo girl. She must have been brought up from the east for treatment (a caesarean operation). She was a pitiful sight, trembling and in a completely confused state; she must only be around 18. It must feel awful for her with a new baby (a tiny sweet little thing – pinkish brown) and in enemy territory, separated from home and family. People treat her kindly although the nurses don’t seem to do much for her – she is unkempt and looks a mess. There are flies everywhere in the ward. It tears your heart out to see her. She wants to go home, but the doctor won’t allow her to be moved as she is too ill and weak. She wept when Gerald read her some letters from her family.
10th December 1967
“The war continues with heavy fighting still at Nsukka, Enugu and places along the border – casualties are heavy on both sides. The turnover of wounded soldiers in the hospital is very speedy. One soldier proudly showed us the ‘Biafran’ bullet which was removed from his shoulder – a souvenir. The Igbo girl, whose name is Rachel, is making little progress. Hospital patients out here are fed by their relatives, so the only food this girl gets is what we take. Her hair had to be shaved off it was such a mess, so we gave her material to make a head square. Her husband has been killed and no-one knows whether her father is okay or not.”
3rd January 1968
“General Gowon announced a new and large campaign to be launched against Biafra unless they accept a settlement on federal terms.”
13th January 1968
“Rachel has been transferred to Ikache to be looked after by the Dutch nurses. She is worried about her family and her father, whom she believes has been killed. Poor, sad girl, she seems to have no will to live even though her baby is getting stronger.”
14th January 1968
“Rachel, the Igbo girl, has died. Her operation wound never healed. Someone is going to try to get the baby to her family in Biafra. We are going to spend the money we got from mum and dad on the baby.”
Jeff’s Website: http://jeffgardiner.com/