First of all, I owe it to Fiat.Luxury’s excellent Cannonball Review for even reading this book. I read the review myself, and was like, “MUST READ.” I will not retread the grounds already covered by this excellent review, so you should read Fiat.Luxury’s review first and then come back.
Back? Okay. Let’s talk. I really liked that this book was so candid, even if it was uncomfortable and heartbreaking. It challenged me to think beyond my very comfortable Westernized view of being a woman, and it showed me how truly lucky I am to have access to an education and birth control. As a feminist, I may argue that we need certain rights, but at the end of the day, does my philosophy put food on the table? But enough about me.
Nnu Ego is a very sympathetic and compelling character, and Emecheta’s skillful prose really illuminates the constant struggle that parenthood can be, particularly if you are (A) pressured to bring sons in the world and (B) so poor that eating every day is a continual struggle. But Emecheta is not manipulative or sentimental in her prose–rather, she matter-of-factly lays out these events as usual and not at all out of the ordinary for an average Nigerian woman. That’s what makes this such an effective novel, in my opinion.
Another reason this book is so compelling is that it chronicles the incredible changes being wrought in society through the end of colonization and the beginning of World War II. Through Nnu Ego, we see a Nigeria that is no longer the family-oriented agrarian society, but one that is being Westernized through colonial influence and forcing families to become Western without considering the kinds of structures that will be irreparably damaged.
If I ever get the chance to teach a class on global feminism or maternity or depictions of femininity in literature, you bet your buttons this book will be included. It’s short but powerful, and it packs a subtle punch that has stayed with me long after reading.