I was given Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by a friend, which was nice because I am rarely given books. You would think I would be given books often, as I am clearly a book lover, but nooooo. Anyway, my friend clearly appreciated the novel and wanted me to share in his joy.
The title of the book, I believe, is very apt. It perfectly encapsulates one of the themes but it also captures the Nigerian obsession with honorifics and certain professions – woe betide any individual who addresses a man as Mr, when he is, in fact, a doctor. The title also tells us who the key characters are and sets the tone for the tale. I would give the title 10/10.
The story is about a man and his bride, who attempt to build a stable life on a foundation established on a sole falsehood – that he is a doctor, rather than what he actually is – a man working as an assistant in an old people’s home. Needless to say it is a funny story, it is a sad story; it is a story that makes you cringe and wince. It gets more and more outrageous as you read and the growing issues of the characters snowball.
The story is ambitious in its attempt to illustrate the weight of trying to live another’s dream and the aspirations of family, it paints for us a picture of friends who are not really friends, of a marriage between strangers, and the pride and desire of a man to be the breadwinner and hero of his family. Iromuanya is ambitious and the story benefits because of it. I would give the plot an 8/10.
The strongest character in Mr. and Mrs. Doctor was Job who prefers to live a life of fantasy and tomorrows than face the music. His delusions and folly remind me of Scarlett from Gone with the Wind and Blanche from a Streetcar named Desire. Job allows his vanity and pride to lead him astray. He is vivid and as the reader reads, you begin to anticipate what his response will be to certain things; though he will still surprise you. Despite his foolishness and maybe because of it, he endears himself to you. Ifi, his wife, is a character who grows and changes and is eventually able to look at the truth squarely. She is a very likable character and I could not help but wonder what I would do in her situation. I would give the characters 7/10.
As he made his rounds that night, he told his patients the familiar story: he came from kings. It meant more to them than if he were to explain the truth: that his father was a chief and his father before him. Job told them he came from kings as he crouched to bathe them over the pot, to empty their bedpans, to wipe the caked spittle from around their mouths, to re-dress their wounds – the work that shamed him.
Iromuanya’s style is vivid. You can see, you can smell, you can hear. You are completely wrapped up in the world she has created as you are reading. She takes her time, and paints you a picture that is rich, and destined to haunt you. I would give her style a 10/10.
This is definitely a must-read for those who love a good dramatic tale.