9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is a beautiful book,
This review is from: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives (Paperback)
This is a beautiful book ; starting out as a comic description of a large, vain man with bowel trouble and far too many scheming wives, which could easily have become a shrill treatise - but it develops instead as a multi-voiced, multi-layered narrative about the workings of a polygamous Nigerian household and its secrets, which unravel dramatically and touchingly over the course of the story. The characters come alive so powerfully, each in their own voice, that when I finished, I felt for days afterwards I was walking around with Bolanle, Segi, Baba Segi and the others in my head.
Ms Shoneyin uses comedy, a poetic sensibility, powerful imagery and a very humane approach - not pointing the finger but rather giving us a chance to understand people's motives and back stories, from the four very different wives to the children and the patriarch himself, who in the end cuts an unexpectedly pathetic figure. It's refreshing to read such a subtle and un-dogmatic account of an important social issue; Ms Shoneyin clearly abhors polygamy for its effects (particularly on the women and children), but she understands the people involved from within (I read in an interview that her grandmother was one such polygamous wife) and gives us a chance to get under their skin before we judge them.
I have read some of Shoneyin's poetry as well; she is a writer with a wonderful humanity and a light touch; soulfulness shines through all her work.
I would encourage anyone to read this book; male or female and any nationality; it's firmly and atmospherically set in Ibadan, Nigeria but resonates for anyone interested in family, marriage etc.