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Scarlet Song

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Winner of the Norma Prize in Africa for her first novel Une si longue lettre
Paperback, 171 pages
Published May 7th 1995 by Longman Publishing Group (first published 1981)
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Corvinus Maximilus
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
3 Sept. 2011 - To be honest, it has been a while. What I remember is that the story challenged so many preconceptions of identity...and I remember that I truly enjoyed it. Will re-read and better comment, perhaps!

11 Sept. 2011 - I have just reread this book and remember why I was so moved during the first year so many years ago. There are so many layers, like the layers of society and the often conflicting forces of progress, tradition, and culture. Every character presents a strong message, if
Given that Mariam Ba wrote this book as she was dying, I wonder if that is why she managed to put in so much of how she saw her world? The African world. And this she did brilliantly; she showed, did not tell. She expertly wove in the many layers of life as an African in the modern world, exploring many themes without losing the unity of the story.

If I rated the book initially, in the first third or so, I'd have given it a 3. I got more into it as I read on, and by the time I was done it was a 5
A deceptively thin book, this book contains a storm of huge issues in its story including gender, race, chauvinism, cultural identity, tradition vs. modernity, polygamy and post-colonial African identity. I'm sure there more issues that I missed. It's an easy read, because Ba's writing is vivid, and the plot moves swiftly. However, it is anything but an "easy" read because of the painful portrayal of chauvinism and its denigrating effect on both women and men.

Mireille, the white daughter of a F
Maame Prempeh
"A white woman does not enrich a family. She impoverishes it by undermining its unity"

The gospel according to Mariama Ba. I really have no sympathy for the caucascian woman in this novel. What she endured is no different from what occurred in Ba's So Long a Letter.

It's hauntingly true sadly. I've seen and witnessed it so frequent am immuned to it.

Ba is an great artist. Her weaving skills in storytelling is out of this world.
Nina Chachu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This short novel packs in a great deal, exploring the ups and downs of cross-cultural relationships and the impact of society on those individuals who dare to breach the walls of conformity. You may just find it too heart-wrenching towards the end though.
women despite the color the prestige suffers the blows and sweets of love. any one of them is vulnerable to the ills of love. this book also poses the question, are you strong enough to break through the norms of a society without breaking down?
While I did not like this book that much personally, I must say the central theme of an interracial, cross-cultural marriage is used brilliantly in two ways: 1) as a way to make the trials faced by women who are both Muslim and African (with a focus specifically on Senegalese context) are marginalized by a strongly patriarchal society more easily accessible to people who grew up with a more Western background and 2) as a way to highlight some of the main social issues Ba saw problematic in Seneg ...more
Sep 07, 2013 Khulani marked it as to-read
Dude, her name is spelled wrong on here! Mariama Ba is such a beautiful writer. i like to think its even more beautiful in french, but I wouldn't know! this book's about a relationship between a white french diplomat's daughter and a bright, poor senegalese young man who meet as teenagers and are both idealistic and political. It moves between various people's perspectives, and begins, quite wonderfully, with his childhood. The writer is sympathetic to their love, while at the same time presents ...more
I read this in one of my French literature classes while completing my minor. I'm unsure how to "star" it because, while it was powerfully written, I didn't love reading it. The story enraged me so much, I wanted to throw it against a wall at the end. Some of my classmates actually admitted to having done so. Nevertheless, I remember the plot details about as vividly as any of my favorite books.

It is a frank look at a difficult scenario - trying to make a life with clashing cultural backgrounds.
Varyanne Sika
Women first, race second...In most cases.
This book made me ache for an African story in which the black man is not an asshole.
I understand that pain is powerful and stories of pain need to be told, but can't love be made more powerful than pain, can't hope be made more powerful, why do we exalt pain? Why is a story only powerful or 'real' when it is painful? Why are we telling stories of black men driving women of all races insane decade after decade. Why can't we celebrate love, happiness, unit
I believe this book was on my list from an African lit course I did not take. Still read the book and checked it out of the university library. Another student was clearly shocked by the racist attitudes of the 60s based on the notations in the margin. I expected it and I actually was somewhat surprised by how the main character changed. It was interesting to see the pull of culture on these people and I enjoyed the African perspective. Can't say I loved the book and I certainly did not think it ...more
I read this novel in French as an American in Senegal. It's easy to see why I would have related to Mirelle of the novel, although I particularly enjoyed how Mariama Bâ pulled out the complexity of each character, to highlight the many ways this (SPOILER) couple was doomed from the start. A dynamic read on the particular challenges of multicultural romance, and the clear impact of both culture and politics on how we relate to even those most close to us.
Michele White
This book is interesting in its exploration of an interracial couple in Senegal in the 60s. Overall, it's pretty heartbreaking in the culture clashes, stubbornness and excuses created during the course of the relationship, but the author definitely offers some interesting insights and criticisms. I like Ba's So Long a Letter better, it's just so poignant, but this is short and worth the read.
Interracial relations are complicated. There are accommodations and overcompensations that occur in order to make it work. Sometimes the best efforts are hurt by our passion for their success, and sometimes desperation drives us to things outside of ourselves.

Have your tissues ready for this one...
African Literature
The novel Scarlet Song is a story of love between two youngsters from different backgrounds in a largely patriarchal society. The Senegalese author - Mariama Ba, powerfully powerfully intertwines the story of love between the young couple the full review @
Read this about ten years ago in my bookgroup but I do remember it being evocative, provative and a tear jerker. I also thought it brave of Ba to question inter-racial relationships, the pros and the cons - issues that even up to this day are not discussed. A great read!
This book deceived me! I thought I was buying into an innocent love story, but culture and colonization got in the way! An emotionally difficult read, but fascinating nonetheless.
If you haven't read "Such a long letter" by Ba, I would recommend that over this. This is good, but the other is much stronger.
Samantha Leighanne
To read my full review of this book, visit my blog,
Kimmie Berg
I had to read this for a Foreign Lit class, it was not my favorite, but it did have good points
Jan 26, 2009 Lara added it
Shelves: read-for-college
Read for my Modern African Lit. class. I can't rate it because I don't remember it.
kare mamadou
kare mamadou marked it as to-read
Nov 26, 2015
Erika Mora
Erika Mora marked it as to-read
Nov 25, 2015
Kirui EN Maroba
Kirui EN Maroba marked it as to-read
Nov 24, 2015
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Mariama Bâ (1929 – 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, who wrote in French. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim, but at an early age came to criticise what she perceived as inequalities between the sexes resulting from [African] traditions. Raised by her traditional grandparents, she had to struggle even to gain an education, because they did not believe that girls should be taught. Bâ ...more
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