Author: Lola Shoneyin
Year of Publication: 2010
Publisher: Cassanova Republic Press
” To the dismay of her ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich rotund patriach, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore a great prize , but even graduates must produce children and her husband’s persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be
Weaving the voices of Baba Segi and his four competing wives into a portrait of a clamorous household of twelve , Lola Shoneyin evokes an extraordinary Nigerian family with splashes of colour”
The book introduces us to Baba Segi, husband to four wives and father to many children. The first chapter commences with the musings of Baba Segi as he ponders on the predicament of his most recent wife. Baba Segi is desperate for a child despite his many offsprings but his new wife is yet to give him any. This leads him to find ways to get her pregnant thereby providing the plot for the story and the series of events that finally to snowball into one epic lie.
The book is told primarily from the point of view of Baba Segi and his fourth wife Bolanle. However, as the story progresses, we hear from the other wives and the stories of how they all ended up with their husband. As one of the main characters, Baba Segi is very interesting. He is one of these typical cultured people who have learnt what they know and do not understand that it is possible to unlearn and learn new things everyday. This, in my opinion is why he is so easily deceived.
One theme i noticed in the book is control. This is illustrated by the way baba Segi places the chairs in the living room. He arranges them and tells each wife where to sit because he likes to watch their facial expressions. Another instance would be the times he tried to hide Bolanle because she ‘dresses like a graduate’
Baba Segi’s fear of losing Bolanle is depicted throughout the Novel. His friends continuously adhere to the fact that she is a graduate and will leave him for a younger educated man. This explains his incessant need to have her at his side at all times and to get her pregnant. After all, he continuously implies that she cannot be a woman until she bears him children.
The other wives also provide interesting commentary and backstories throughout. There seems to be a common hatred for the new wife. This would be expected in any polygamous household. However, the reason for their hatred is depicted as their jealousy of her education. It is also explained that the other wives just happened on him and Bolanle is the only wife he actually chose to marry. Perhaps they noticed this?
As i read through the book so many questions like the one above arose. Thankfully the author made sure to answer every lingering question i had. The use of language is simple yet the word command and various expressions used throughout is simply fascinating. I like to pick up on people’s work to improve my own writing (because we all learn everyday) and i must say that the style and command of English is commendable
So what is this secret life that his wives lead? Well, you will have to read the book to find out. Does that answer the question of whether or not you should read this book? The answer is yes (to both questions). I recommend reading it 100%. The chaotic lifestyle and the setting of a large and diverse family makes me thankful that my parents settled for monogamy.
The style of writing used in this story is very descriptive and you actually find out the secret in the middle of the story. However, the writer brilliantly leaves you wanting more even though the truth is revealed. This book is a classic page turner that will compel you to read through to the end. I know this because i read the whole thing one day before my university dissertation was due