Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Kehinde by Buchi Emecheta

Author: Buchi Emecheta
Publisher- Format:Waveland Pr Inc (2005) Paperback, 144 pages
Subject: Women's roles in various cultures
Setting: London, Nigeria
Genre:  African literature
Source: Public library

The Blurb:   Kehinde is a Nigerian woman, unsure of herself, not quite certain she has the right to be happy. With her husband, Albert, she has made a home in London, and has a promising career when Albert decides they should return to Nigeria. Kehinde is loath to do so, and joins him later, reluctantly, only to discover that he has taken a second, younger wife. Her years in England have left Kehinde unwilling and unprepared to reembrace Nigerian social mores; and unable to accept the situation, she returns to London.

My Impressions:  This short crisply written book packs a wallop.  The main character Kehinde is a strong, educated but conflicted woman who is trying to reconcile the role of women in two cultures: the polygamous traditions of her native Nigeria where her extended family still lives, and the European customs and mores of monogamous marriage.  She and her husband Albert are both living in England where she has an excellent and well-paying job, a house, two children, and is well respected by everyone except her husband, whose lesser job does not reinforce his perception of his self-importance.  Letters from his sisters (who think he is very wealthy) make him believe he can be a larger than life big man in his home town, and he insists on returning to Nigeria.

When Kehinde, who was left behind to sell the house and wait for her husband to find a job and a house in Nigeria, finally arrives, it is to find the second wife, a small house full of relatives, and her "English" ways very much unappreciated.  How she deals with the disappointment and disillusionment and how she comes to save herself and her dignity make for a compelling story.

Published several years ago, this book was part of our library's "Opening the Windows" book discussion series we've been doing.  Seeing the lives, expectations, opportunities, and traditions of various cultures as they impact the lives of women, has been a truly enriching experience for those of us participating in the group.  This book is well-worth the two or three hours it takes to read it.


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