The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

thesecretlivesofbabasegiswivesThe Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives, as the title implies, is the story of Baba Segi’s four wives. Baba Segi is a wealthy businessman from Nigeria. He strongly believes that the number of wives and children (sons most specially) a man has is the measure of real manhood. You’d laugh at how obsessed Baba Segi was in planting his seeds to his wives. Ha!

Baba Segi’s wives all live with shocking secrets. I will not spoil them for you, of course, but let me introduce the four wives. The first wife is Iya Segi. Being the first wife, she is the queen. She loves money and that makes her an accomplished businesswoman. The second wife is Iya Tope. She’s quiet and dismissive, she doesn’t mind Iya Segi calling the shots at home. She’s just happy taking care of her daughters. Iya Femi is the third wife and though I don’t like her, I find her character very interesting. She loves plotting revenge on people, she enjoys it and she’s happy when people are miserable. Then comes Bolanle, the fourth wife, the only educated wife of Baba Segi. The youngest and somehow Baba Segi’s favorite until it turns out that she’s barren. Baba Segi turned against her until the secrets started to come out. It wasn’t really surprising anymore if you’ve focused on the wives’ stories but I could imagine how each revelation was so shocking and painful for Baba Segi.

This book gives us a good view of life in Nigeria specially for women. Women who may be different from many of us and the life we’re living but they are also humans who have wishes and dreams, big and small. It’s saddening to read about the polygamous kind of marriage that exists there and the role of women as wives most specially their “obligation” to conceive a male heir. And if you can’t, you’re good for nothing.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is a wonderful book. There’s a roller-coaster of emotions while I was reading it. It’s beautifully-written and the characters were well-drawn. Lola Shoneyin did a good job in engaging and captivating the readers.

Quotable Quotes:

“The choices we have to make in this world are hard are bitter. Sometimes we have no choices at all.”

“Men are nothing. They are fools. The penis between their legs is all they are useful for. And even then, if not that women needed their seed for children, it would be better to sit on a finger of green plantain. Listen to my words. Only a foolish woman leans heavily on a man’s promises.”

“A real woman must always do the things she wants to do, and in her own time too. You must never allow yourself to be rushed into doing things you’re not ready for.”

“Don’t think I can’t see the challenges ahead of me. People will say I am a secondhand woman. Men will hurt and ridicule me but I won’t let them hold me back. I will remain in the land of the living. I am back now and the world is spread before me like an egg cracked open.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

thegirlwiththeloudingvoiceThe Girl with the Louding Voice is Abi Dare’s debut novel and wow, what an amazing debut!

This is Adunni’s story, a fourteen-year-old girl from the small village of Ikati in Nigeria who wants a proper education and a louding voice. She lives with her alcoholic father and two brothers. Her mother was the breadwinner of the family and wished for Adunni to be able to attend and finish school but she soon passed away. At the wake  of her mother’s death, her father married her off to a rich man named Morufu to be his third wife in order to collect the bride-price. A series of events occurred while she was married to Morufu and soon a tragedy, which forced her to flee. She then found herself in Big Madam’s mansion in Lagos working without pay and beaten everyday.

Adunni is one unforgettable character. She is one of the many girls around the world who didn’t have the privilege to study and learn. She is one of the many child brides. Abi Daré incredibly gave life to Adunni’s voice. Adunni speaks broken English as the story started and I liked that the author wrote it this way and showed us how Adunni’s English progressively changed throughout the book. She eventually developed her English as she begins to study in secret.  Adunni later realized in the story that English is just a language like many others and that the ability to speak good English is not the measure of an intelligent mind.

I enjoyed this book so much. There were many parts in the story that were truly sad but I loved her character so much because although she faced a lot of trials and hardships, she refused to give up, she never once lost faith. She was always positive and hopeful that someday, she will be that girl with the louding voice.

Quotable Quotes:

“You must do good for other peoples, even if you are not well, even if the whole world around you is not well.”

“That day, I tell myself that even if I am not getting anything in this life, I will go to school. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice… I want a louding voice.”

“I want to tell her that God is not a cement building of stones and sand. That God is not for all that putting inside a house and locking Him there. I want her to know that the only way to know if a person find God and keep Him in their heart is to check how the person is treating other people, if he treats people like Jesus says–with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness.”

“Who knows what else tomorrow will bring? So, I nod my head yes, because it is true, the future is always working, always busy unfolding better things, and even if it doesn’t seem so sometimes, we have hope of it.”

“When you get up every day, I want you to remind yourself that tomorrow will be better than today. That you are a person of value. That you are important.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

staywithmeYejide and Akin have been in love with each other since they first met in the university. After several years of being married though, Yejide has never gotten pregnant until one day, her in-laws brought a younger woman in their home and proposed that she be Akin’s second wife in order for them to have children. Yejide was pressured to get pregnant or else, she would have to share her husband with another woman.

Told in alternating views of Yejide and Akin, the book is a very honest story of love, marriage, grief and loyalty. The characters aren’t really very likable but they were written well.

It is also always very fascinating to learn more of cultures that are very different from my own and in this book Nigeria’s traditions and beliefs, more specifically the Yoruba people.

I liked Ayobami Adebayo’s writing. She has shown that her writing talent is very much beyond her years. For this, I’m adding her to my list of authors whose works I very much look forward to.

This is not a hopeful book I must say but something that will stay with me for a long time.

Quotable Quotes:

“If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.”

“So love is like a test, but in what sense? To what end? Who was carrying out the test? But I think I did believe that love had immense power to unearth all that was good in us, refine us and reveal to us the better versions of ourselves.”

“I understand how a word others use every day can become something whispered in the dark to soothe a wound that just won’t heal. I remember thinking I would never hear it spoken without unravelling a little, wondering if I would ever get to say it in the light. So I recognise the gift in this simple pronouncement, the promise of a beginning in this one word.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

Half of the Yellow Sun by Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi

halfofayellowsunI have to admit, I have very little knowledge of Nigeria and of the Republic of Biafra and its states so reading a book like Half of a Yellow Sun was very educational and informative for me. I know very little about Africa actually with the exception of Egypt perhaps, so this really was a wonderful pick.

This is my first experience with Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi and I understand now what people are raving about. I must say the writing was excellent. She was able to make me feel like I’ve just lived through the experience. She was able to show how manipulative a propaganda can get and how people change as the war continues. I will surely read more of her works.

The story is about the war in Nigeria in 1960s when Biafra was trying to establish itself as a separate state/republic from Nigeria. Written in alternating points of view from several characters, the book provides a good insight of Nigerian life. My favorite characters were Kainene and Ugwu. I am still wondering where Kainene is and what happened to her.

The book title was based from the Biafran flag where red symbolizes blood of the massacred in the North, black for mourning, green for prosperity and the half of a yellow sun symbolizes a glorious future which was sadly never seen.

I enjoyed reading this book as I was exposed to something I knew very little about and I am excited to read more pieces from this author and see how they compare.

Quotable Quotes:

“There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.”

“You can’t write a script in your mind and then force yourself to follow it. You have to let yourself be.”

“Why do I love him?…I don’t think love has a reason…I think love comes first and then the reasons follow.”

“Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.”

“You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?” Aunty Ifeka said. “Your life belongs to you and you alone.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

 

 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

thingsThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is my first classic of African literature. Set on the eve of the colonial encounter between British missionaries and the people from Igbo villages called Umuofia. It tells the story of one of the village leaders, Okonkwo, born to a lazy father but told himself early on that he will not be like his father and thus became hardworking and soon became famous for his strength and ferocity in war.

The book is divided into three parts. First, the Igbo society, a typical African society with all its beliefs and customs. Second, Okonkwo’s expulsion from his village as a punishment for a crime. And third, his arrival and time in Mbanta, his mother’s village. As is with the history of colonial conquest, though there were moments of hope, the ending was tragic and inevitable.

Definitely an interesting read but there’s just too much characters and lots of foreign languages I just couldn’t get used to so it was a bit on the hard side for me reading this but I think a reread will make me like this more.

Quotable Quotes:

“A proud heart can survive general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.”

“No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man.”

“Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.”

“If you had been poor in your last life I would have asked you to be rich when you come again. But you were rich. If you had been a coward, I would have asked you to bring courage. But you were a fearless warrior. If you had died young, I would have asked you to get life. But you lived long. So I shall ask you to come again the way you came before.”

“He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Rating: 3/5 stars