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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars

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on 11 April 2010
Before Reading The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, I had never read any literary work by Lola Shoneyin. Having read it however, I will definitely be on the look out for any of her future offerings.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives traces the lives of five people (Ishola Alao A.K.A. Baba Segi and his four wives: Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi and the newest wife, Bolanle). The book lets the reader into the vicissitudes in the lives of these women which sees them pitching their tents in matrimony with Ishola; from the latent feelings of homosexuality and the worship of money that the fat Iya Segi harboured, to the physical abuse, sufferings and desires for revenge that blighted the existence of Iya Femi and the almost cuckoo Iya Tope. And to top all these is the almost mysterious Bolanle who has sought refuge in this polygamous household despite the fact that she sticks out like a sore thumb being the only educated spouse in the midst of an illiterate husband and three illiterate co-wives.

Ishola, a male chauvinist, is supremely proud of his virility and his seven children. He is puffed up with the achievement of having bagged a woman who has a university degree and does not for a moment stop to think if there is a reason she has chosen him as a husband instead of a man who is as educated as she is. Of all his wives, she is the one woman that he has chosen by himself to be his wife (the other three wives having been thrust upon him by one circumstance or the other).

Bolanle's continued barrenness gives Ishola more than a little cause for concern and the search for a cure unleashes gob smacking revelations in his life. In the midst of this is the jealousy that rages amongst the older wives at the attention Ishola pays Bolanle and the inferiority complex they feel towards her on account of their being unlettered. Despite the ill feelings borne towards her by her co-wives and their maltreatment of her, Bolanle bears it all with quiet stoicism and acts remarkably with gallantry and grace.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is a witty story about polygamy which has diabolical plots, murder, jealousy & secrets; and is told with compassion and understanding by the author. As a reader, it forces one to think that there just might be more than meets the eye when one sees women cleave themselves to a man irrespective of the fact that he is already joined in matrimony to another.

It was an enjoyable read for me and I recommend that you read it yourself.
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on 12 August 2017
A wonderful read that left me captivated with every turn. This book has reawakened my long lost passion for reading to my unexpected and delightful surprise! Looking forward to the next book!
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on 28 May 2017
Fun and intricate story, beautifully written and tantalisingly drawn out. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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on 11 June 2013
Every woman must see their uniqueness and being the 2nd, 3rd or possibly 4th best is an anathema. Polygamy is a terrible thing to happen to any man and women should not disturb another woman's home, because the same dosage will be measured up 100% to the lady. Women are always the victims of this outrageous acts against women and broken homes affects our families, our community, our cities and at large our nations!
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on 7 June 2017
Simply one of the best books I have ever read! I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone seeking a book you cannot put down!
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on 30 May 2017
Good story highlight the reality of our African culture would definetly recommend the book. . . . . . .
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on 24 June 2010
What first attracted me to this book was the title, although the title gives you a good idea of its contents, you cannot imagine how captivating the story is.

It threw me deep into the world of Baba Segi and his extended family, It has got twists, funny expressions, real life descriptions, first person narrations and it is highly expressive. Lola has done a good job with this book. I am looking forward to more books by her, I cannot wait to get engrossed with such a compelling story again.

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on 19 April 2010
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.
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on 23 June 2010
Feminism is relative. And although some of the actions of Baba Segi's Wives are diabolical, some are heroic. If one must have a fat old husband because there is no other option, then why not have fantastic sex with the butcher? The story follows the escapades of these women as they fight and love and live as the wives of Baba Segi. Lola Shoneyin is a wonderful poet. In her debut novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, this has translated into beautiful, well constructed sentences, powerful imagery and plucky dialogue. Her characters are so well rounded that you can love and despise them in a single sentence. Baba Segi is a fabulous creation, and his story of living in rapidly changing times, where the past is clashing with the future - is a universal one. Reading this book, it is possible to learn something about Nigeria, about the practise of polygamous marriages, about a rich and interesting culture, about gender. Although Baba Segi is a dying breed, in a way, he will be missed. I read this novel in one sitting, and look forward to reading again. I admire Baba Segi's wives for inventiveness, and Baba Segi for forgiveness, but most of all, I admire the writer, Lola Shoneyin, who has written bravely about a subject that may make men rethink about marrying that second wife...
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on 11 May 2010
In this engaging and thoroughly entertaining piece, Lola Shoneyin presents to us a deeply illuminating protrait of a polygamous family in a traditional African setting, with all its intrigues and rancourous rivalries. Packed with humour and spices of proverbs and wisecracks, it is a tale of women's lives conditioned in the prison of culture, a story of struggles for survival, of forbidden passions and family conspiracies.

The Alao's family is the meeting point of different individual stories, but it wasnt the melting pot. The focus, as the title aptly suggest, is on the women's lives' stories before and after they were married to Baba Segi. For a start, it is telling that the women-like their husbands- were known mainly or only by their children- their identity and worth seemed to be tied to the number of children. Indeed, in Baba Segi we meet a man who see women essentially as factories for making children. With four wives and seven children, he was just starting!

The first wife, Iya Segi, grew up in the village with her Trader mother. She was uneducated by highly ambitious, and for a moment the reader if left to ponder how her ambition could have been helped by a sound education. Iya Segi was industrious and prudently saved much money, which she kept in her bedroom. Until the day her mother found the money and promptly decided her ambitions were dangerous and it was time she married! when the daughter remarked that "women dont need husbands", the mother propmtly replied: "You do. You need one to bear children. the world has no patience for spinsters... it is every womn's life purpose to bear children" All her money was given to her future husband, who she hardly knew. "He will need it to look after you".

The second wife, Iya Tope, was the child of a farmer, who was hired by Baba Segi to till the land for him. In one particular year the harvest did very badly, and Iya Tope was given as compensation for Baba Segi's loss. For the third wife, Iya Femi, the story is slightly different, although she also grew up in the village. We know quite little about her parents, but the little we know is significant. She was an only child, and her hard working parents were determined to provide for all her need, including her education. She was especially her mother's pet, but both her parents died suddenly in mysterious circumstances, and the uncle, who had promised to do everything for her, not only sent her out of a house built by her deceased parents, but effectively 'sold' her as a house servant to a rich family in Ibadan city. Iya Femi would later lament: ".. from the day I got there, I was a house-girl and my status did not change. They pillaged the most fruitful years of my life, all the time treating me as if they'd find me in a pit latrine".

Bolanle was the fourth wife, and the only one who was educated. Infact, Bolanle was a university graduate! How did she end up as the 4th wife of an uneducated man and 3 illiterate rivals? She bears the heavy burden of a tragic incident when she was 15, added to this is the untold pressure of a perfectionist mother, and a strongly patriachal, male-centred society. And she tried to convince herself as a reformer on a mission to educate and refine her illiterate rivals. On the contrary, it turned out she was a ticking time bomb whose adventure would expose a tranquility built on a pack of lies, taking the life of young Segi in the process, and making Baba Segi to come to terms with the truth about the seven youngsters who call him 'father'.

It is a book you wont want to put down in a sitting, an emotional roller-coaster that will keep you glued to the book as you turn from page to page. I strongly recommend it.
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