Author: Buchi Emecheta
Genre: Fiction (tragedy)
Rating : ⭐⭐⭐
Page count: 253
Month read: February 2016
Favourite character: None, should have been Ona, but Buchi killed her :'(.
“Many men can make love and give babies easily, but cannot love”.
“Few men tell their women where they’re going”.
“Education is a lifelong project”.
“I wish Nnu Ego had been born in our time. When we were young, men valued the type of beauty she has,” he mused. Idayi smiled knowingly. “Nevertheless, the fact is, my friend, she was not born then; she was born in her own time. Things have changed a lot. This is the age of the white man. Nowadays every young man wants to cement his mud hut and cover it with corrugated-iron sheets instead of the palm leaves we are used to. You’ll just have to accept a man of today, Agbadi.’
“You want a husband who has time to ask you if you wish to eat rice, or drink corn pap with honey? Forget it. Men here are too busy being white men’s servant to be men. We women mind the home. Not our husbands. Their manhood has been taken away from them. The shame of it is that they don’t know it. All they see is the money, shining white man’s money.” “But’, Nnu Ego protested, ‘my father released his slaves because the white man says it’s illegal. Yet these our husbands are like slaves, don’t you think?’
Money and children don’t go together: if you spent all your time making money and getting rich, the gods wouldn’t give you children;if you wanted children,you had to forget money and be content to be poor.
Men- all they were interested in were male babies to keep their names going. But did not a woman have to bear the woman-child who would bear the sons? ‘God , when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage?”
Under white skins, just as under black ones, all humans are the same.
“Your girl is only a girl. You cannot prevent a girl from marrying anybody she likes.’
“Look, this is Lagos, not your town or village.”
LESSON: You don’t own anybody.
The story starts off on a day when we meet Nnu Ego on her way to commit suicide by trying to jump off Carter bridge. This was in 1934, at the time when Nigeria was still being colonized by the British. Nnu Ego as we are made to discover later had just lost her four old week son Ngozi. The one that showed the world that she wasn’t barren after all, yet just after four weeks, he died. Nnu Ego has decided to go and confront her chi(a small god that is believed to control the fate of its individuals in the ibo tradition) in the land of the dead. Her first attempt at marriage had proved futile as her chi(a former slave girl,who was killed by her father’s sons forcefully) was taking revenge by refusing to grant her a child. Luckily, Nnu Ego is saved by a friend, Nwansukor. But as a result of her shortcoming as failed woman; following her people’s tradition, Nnu Ego loses her pride and self-worth and before long, falls into a deep state of depression. With time and through the help of her childhood friend Ato, she returns back to her normal self. She receives a message from her chi through a dream about her possibility of bearing another child and as many more as she likes, only on the condition that she must suffer to care for them.This happens as Oshia is born. Nnu Ego feels honoured now as a wife and mother because she produced a male child. This time she vows to make sure nothing goes wrong with her new born and hopes that someday, he’ll grow to be a “big man” and will in turn care for her in old age. She believes this is the reward that comes with mothehood; so that you’ll have somebody to call your own and rely on in times of need. A lot more happens in the story with Nnu Ego who in the beginning seemed a failed woman to her people, now having lots of children, with two sets of twins in between. On the other hand, her second husband Nnaife is a man who Nnu Ego doesn’t feel the need to show respect. Not only did he not meet up to her expectations in terms of his physical appearance, but he also failed to live up to his responsibilities as husband and father. The only thing Nnaife was good at was making babies that had needs he couldn’t cater to. Again, following customs and traditions, he added more to his problems by bringing in his dead brother’s wives and children as part of the family.But customs and traditions evolve with time, and Nnu Ego and Nnaife have refused to understand and accept this until they have to learn it the hard way.
Buchi Emecheta narrated the story in a third person omniscient voice. Through Nnu Ego’s experiences, she exposed us to what gender inequality is like and how it affects the family and society in general. Reading the book, it sounded as if Buchi was speaking from a feminist point of view , as she laid much emphasis on gender roles and the value of women in a typical Nigerian community. The message she was trying to send was pretty obvious; a woman’s worth shouldn’t be determined by a man, or the amount or children, especially males one she bears.
The story is set in Lagos and Ibuza(an Ibo village). Comparisms are made between the two, letting us know how much influence the Europeans have had on us, thereby threatening our own values plus how a rural community differs from an urban community in its style, ways and operations. If anything, most times the rural community offers more protection and peace of mind when compared to the urban community.
Gender roles and inequality.
Women and feminity.
Culture and tradition.
The joys of motherhood is the fifth novel I’ve read from Buchi Emecheta.The others I read as a child, so I can hardly remember the stories. I’ve had this book in my possession for a long time and just decided to read it last week. Asides the fact that Buchi was able to address societal issues in an engaging way, I didn’t really enjoy reading the book. The manner in which some of the characters progressed was sort of annoying. Then again, I didn’t understand why an Ibo family would name their twins “Taiwo and Kehinde”(names given to twins in the yoruba tribe) and not be in support of Kehinde’s marriage to a Yoruba man. If Buchi had explained that it was some name they earned as pet names from the neighbors, maybe I would have understood. What’s more, some of the customs practised in the book, like the case of a young slave being forcefully buried alongside her mistress… for me, that was just pathetic. I couldn’t blame her for putting Nnu Ego through such torture and pain, all in the name of motherhood. “The joys of motherhood indeed”, that was an ironic title.” She died all alone, with no child or friend around her”, where was Malachi when this happened? He was supposed to be in the village with her, keeeping her company.These and many more put me off while reading this tragic story.
In all, I liked Buchi’s simple and straightforward writing style. You didn’t have to think much about what it was she was trying to say. The messages were pretty clear and simple. There were times I could even predict the next line of action.
Considering we are about to celebrate mothers’ day in the month of march, I recommend that you get a copy of this book for yourself and your mother or anyone you count as mother. Not only would it be a good read, but it’ll let you see the pros and cons of motherhood, thereby making you appreciate all mothers out there.
I’m using this medium to send a big shout to all mothers and most especially all Nnu Egos out there. God bless you and reward you in the way society cannot reward you. Amen
Feel free to leave comments if you’ve read the book.