A beautifully written book. Ayobami Adedayo is a talented writer, however after a short while I found the baseline story too similar to The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin, and that really put me off. I was like really? It’s a different take but the same baseline narrative. I expect that from my Mills & Boon Harlequin romance novels (you know that’s mostly what I read as this blog is full of them) but not a literary novel. It’s the same circumstances with Shoneyin’s novel with a few switches, and a bit more development. There is no debate that Ayobami Adedayo is an awesome writer, but it’s like she’s writing an African trope of infertility with the normal beats. I guess I just expected something more. Again if you read for language and lyrical flow this is the book for you.
It’s not that Shoneyin owned the narrative – I’d read something decades ago along that line (to be fair it was a common Nigerian story/myth – 80s/90s, I’ve even read English books with the theme), it’s This book just felt too similar to ‘The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives’ even down to the character’s body functions, and some other mundane day to day activities (perhaps expected of African novels?). Baba Segi used to soil himself and in this book a few of the characters end up doing that. There was also obligatory visit to the church and prophets, the other wives and babalowo (medicine man) etc. Yes, you can say its the culture but to me, if feels like I’ve read the baseline story before.
However, it’s definitely a beautiful book to read, full of emotion. You can feel all the hard work that has gone to make the prose flow. If feels every word has been laboured over, and selected thoughtfully. There is precision. It’s also easy to get lost in. So worth reading.