Book Reviews

Book Review: The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin

When I decided to read The Secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, I expected some sort of cliche story line. Almost, if not all Africa writers have a lot of their stories based on traditional settings and so with this, I was already biased so to speak even before I began. But instead, the first words of the chapter; ”When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness” had me rethinking my stance. 

After the first quarter, I was literally blown away. There was an amazing twist to the typical Nigerian-polygamy setting with a fantastic style of writing. I must confess, Lola’s writing style was top notch for a debut novel

Written in the first person narrative through the eyes of each character, Lola was able to capture  the voice of each character and give them life in a way that makes it easy to navigate from one voice to the other effortlessly even though I got a bit confused along the line but I think it was distraction on my part but after a while you get used to it.

With a quirky sense of humour, she was able to take us on an insightful journey into the individual lives of the wives of the Alao household and reveal some of the atrocities or lack thereof, each of them had done prior to their marriages and how they had deceitfully found their way into Baba Segi’s home to start a seemingly new life with only their personal selfish gains in mind. Apart from the fourth wife, Bolanle whom due to her barrenness suffered a lot of bile and ruthless attacks from her senior wives, the rest of them were either planning the downfall of one another or ganging up against her who at the end, as predicted became the architect of their predicament. 

Set in the city of Ibadan with apt scenery. I love the fact that she went out of the norm. No unnecessary emphasis like African writers usually do. She was more or less focused on the characters and their personalities/uniqueness and so there was no time to waste on futile descriptions. 

It was also interesting to know the weight of marriage at that time. Marriage was an absolute necessity and often times, the last resort. Irrespective of how much wealth a woman had garnered prior to then, she was expected to submit all to her husband and depend solely on him. Personally, I think that’s an horrible way to live and I’m glad times have changed. Other themes like literacy, wealth, fruitfulness(children) also contributed to the overall essence of the book. 

I also felt like some parts of the book were quite lanky. There wasn’t enough content to carry them so they were rushed over. The faults were minor and easily overlooked.

It was a good read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin”

  1. All Baba Segi’s wives submit to him because well, it’s the world we or they live in. They massage his ego, they’ve done him wrong but ironically, they did this to make him feel like a man. At the same time, we have Iya Segi and Iya Femi who manipulate him very deviously. They run him but he really doesn’t know it. They make me think of Nigerian women who want power and control over their lives, but pretend not to, overtly reject feminism (the new F word), just because they don’t want to look threatening.

    More than anything, I think this book is about power. Like power in African families/communities from the typical gender view points. Lola Soneyin takes a lot of shots at men in this book, and she’s pretty hilarious too!

  2. I really enjoyed the humour in this book. So interesting, the layers to all the wives. Isn’t that how life is? We’re all so much more than we let people see; us women especially because there’s a lot that isn’t ‘proper’ for us.
    Good review Ebun, I love that there are no spoilers too.

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