So I’ve read The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives for the second time round and I think I was even more impressed this time.
I read the novel again because I wanted to review it and the novel was no longer fresh in my mind, it may have been a year since I read it, so I took it from my shelf, dusted it and gave it another go.
As usual, I’ll start off with the title. I have mixed feelings about the title. It kinda sounds like it belongs to a book aimed at a younger age group; like 8-10. Like it would be suit an Enid Blyton story. However, it also sets one up for some mystery, drama and hints at the light-hearted nature of the novel. I would give it a 5/10.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is a multi-protagonist story, however, in many ways I think it is fair to say that Bolanle is the main character. Bolanle is the anomaly in the polygamous home that the tale is centred round. She is the fourth and last wife, but unlike the others she is educated and poised. The tale begins with Baba Segi’s concern over his Bolanle’s inability to conceive, and from the very first sentence you are hooked.
As for the plot in its entirety, I can’t say that I have come across anything quite like it. It is a unique tale, told in a thoroughly engaging way. The plot deserves 10/10.
All the characters stood out. They each had their motivations, their fears, their desires, the reasons why they were who they were. It was easy to sympathize with each and every one of them.
I did feel, however, that the characters were often more eloquent than they should be considering that they couldn’t read, write and had only ever been exposed to pidgin and their native language. The first wife refers to her husband as ‘my lord’ which is not a phrase I believe is common to the Nigerian populace.
How was it that they could see the womanhood that I - on whose body it was plastered - could not?
The sentence, though lovely, did not seem true to the character who had only ever been exposed to farm life. At least not in the way that it was phrased. Nevertheless, I would give the characters 7/10
The writing was stellar, the tone witty, tongue in cheek, beautiful. She pulls you into the world she has spun with detail and outstanding artistry and you are wrapped in the remarkable tale that unfolds before you.
The dark buildings were full of women whose faces glowed under ultra-violet lights. These women lived for other women’s men. They cooked for them. Drank with them. Fought over them. Fucked them. Nursed them. Slapped them and loved them. And when the longing love caused made them ill, they surrendered their lives and died for them.
The very next day, she came to the sitting room and asked if any of us wanted to learn how to read. Iya Femi stood up and hissed until she reached her bedroom door. Iya Segi’s knee began to shake as if she would kick a hole in Bolanle’s head but she just continued to count her money. I slowly lifted my hand.
I know true beauty. And it is in pale yellow skin. I was born darker than this but I use expensive creams to make my natural beauty shine.
I’d give her writing a solid 9/10.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is definitely a novel to ensconce yourself in.