I have not yet been fortunate to travel to the continent of Africa. I would love to visit Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Nevertheless, years ago, I spent a small fortune on Nollywood DVDs and was quite intrigued by the central themes of social class, family, and poverty in many African movies. I discovered The Girl with the Louding Voice from a Bookstagram recommendation about books based in Africa. Comments on the post included rave reviews, so I picked this one up through my local library.
This was an incredible read. The story is of a village girl in Nigeria who very quickly comes of age amidst poverty. She has lost her mother and the lack of female influence in her life leads her in desperate search of that connection along with a basic need for survival. Inevitably, she ends up in an environment very foreign to her, that being the huge metropolis of Lagos, and we see the author make pointed and powerful assertions about culture, religion and education which transcend time and place.
Beginning with the first page, I was thrown by the broken English but soon, over the subsequent pages, began to understand the main character’s dialect. The use of broken English here was so effective in emphasizing the theme of understanding, communicating and really hearing one another despite our differences. The female characters were developed very well and powerfully resonated throughout the main character’s journey. The male characters were obviously less developed serving really only to cushion the story of the women. Even the vilest female character was shown to have many dimensions which you couldn’t help but understand even as you loathed her.
Each chapter begins with a fact about Nigerian history or culture, many of which were unknown to me. Each fact would play a central role in the chapter making this story even more believable. Boko Haram is mentioned briefly in this book, more as an aside, but I felt it could have had a larger presence given one of the central themes was girls having access to education and the disparity between the opportunities afforded men vs women. Some of the practices described seemed to fit more with pre-colonial Africa, and it was powerful to see them pitted side by side with mention of cell phones, Facebook and President Obama.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It is quite a soul stirrer. It resonated with me for several days after reading. A somber read, but also quite optimistic.
Note: This book was a library loan. I received no compensation for this review. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.