Book Review: The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

First published in 1979 by Heinemann

Pages: 350

Joys of Motherhood

Genre: Fiction (African Literature/Historical Fiction)

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Publisher’s Blurb: This novel explores the life of a Nigerian woman, Nnu Ego. Nnu’s life centres on her children and through them, she gains the respect of her community. Traditional tribal values and customs begin to shift with increasing colonial presence and influence, pushing Ego to challenge accepted notions of “mother”, “wife”, and “woman”. Through Nnu Ego’s journey, Emecheta forces her readers to consider the dilemmas associated with adopting new ideas and practices against the inclination to cleave to tradition. In this novel, Emecheta reveals and celebrates the pleasures derived from fulfilling responsibilities related to family matters in child bearing, mothering, and nurturing activities among women. However, the author additionally highlights how the ‘joys of motherhood’ also include anxiety, obligation, and pain.

The Author: Buchi Emecheta OBE was a Nigerian novelist who has published over 20 books, including Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Her themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education have won her considerable critical acclaim and honours, including an Order of the British Empire in 2005. Emecheta once described her stories as “stories of the world…[where]… women face the universal problems of poverty and oppression, and the longer they stay, no matter where they have come from originally, the more the problems become identical.”

My Thoughts: I bought this book at the airport (as usual) en-route Accra, Ghana on a work trip. I already had a book (The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers) lined up to read but I couldn’t resist the urge to visit one of the bookshops at the airport and decided to purchase this book. For some weird reason I have never read any book written by the author and it is actually unusual that up until now I have not read the books of such an acclaimed Nigerian author. Anyway on to the book! The story was quite educative first, because it has given me a better understanding and picture of the lives of most Nigerians during the colonial era. I was able to understand their lives and pretty much our history from the eyes of Nnu Ego. It was a sad story for me simply because most of Nnu Ego’s struggles as a daughter, wife and mother have not gone with colonialism but are still prevalent today in the lives of many a Nigerian woman. From the pressure to get married as a young woman to the immense depression that comes with the inability to have children and also the huge responsibility placed on the woman to raise her children and most often contribute to the family’s finances without being acknowledged . It is then right for me to say that we may have grown in so many ways as a people but in the area concerning the huge expectations placed on the shoulders of the average Nigerian woman. We definitely have a long way to go in this respect.



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