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The Joys of Motherhood

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,570 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
...a graceful, touching, ironically titled tale.
- John Updike

A new edition of her classic novel to coincide with the publication of her other works in the African Writers Series. Nnu Ego is a woman devoted to her children, giving them all her energy, all her worldly possessions, indeed, all her life to them -- with the result that she finds herself friendless and alone in

Paperback, First Edition, 224 pages
Published May 17th 1979 by George Braziller Inc.
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Jun 11, 2015 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
“Yes, life could at times be so brutal that the only things that made it livable were dreams.”- Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood

It's been a while since I've read an African novel that has touched me this much. This is a story that had me transfixed from the start, a tale of heartache, hope, and change. The book’s structure is reminiscent of "Things Fall Apart" in that the early part of the book takes place in an African village that still followed its traditional ways, while the latter
Nnu Ego's father is a great man, so much so that when his senior wife dies, her burial is a grand affair. She must take everything she will need in the afterlife with her, including her personal slave, a beautiful and vivacious young woman captured from another tribe. The woman begs for her life, but to no avail, she is executed. Her restless soul bonds with the recently conceived Nnu Ego and becomes her chi, her personal god.

The great father, Agbadi, feels compassion for the slain slave and to
Jan 29, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it
If Lagos had been a mistress (Ona), her lover (Agbadi) would have been the British, and had they produced a child, that child (Nnu Ego) would have been Nigeria. That child would have married her first husband (the British protectorate - colonization) but would have borne no children by him (Oluwum), so he would have abandoned her. She would have married again (post-colonization- Independence), this time producing offsprings with her second husband (Nnaife) and together, they would have fought to ...more
Mar 18, 2011 Nnedi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
wonderful. this novel takes you deep into igbo culture and nigerian culture as a while in the 30s/40s. you see the connection and conflict between the old and the new, the traditional and the foreign. you see the role that world war II played in nigeria, too. and she never gives easy or simple answers. emecheta writes the most thought-provoking addictive page-turners. also for westerners, this novel is a good exercise in walking in someone else's shoes.
Nov 26, 2014 ☯Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women interested in the African world and its impact on women
Recommended to ☯Emily by: Montclair Reading Club
If I tell you that the title of the book is ironic, that will really tell you everything you need to know. Nnu Ego is a Nigerian woman raising a family in a swiftly changing society. Raised in a typical African village, she is thrust into a rapidly growing city of Lagos when she marries a man working there. There is no family support for her as she tries to adjust to married life in a strange environment. Her first child dies in the first chapter of the book and she is devastated by the loss. Ho ...more
Diane Brown
Beautifully written, authentic story and captivating. Buchi is a great writer. She has taken a story and told it simply to give a glimpse of the plight of a woman in Nigeria, but can be applied everywhere. She handles the issues of patriarchy, the eldest son, the value of a girl child and the contradictions and complexities of culture and traditions, against the backdrop and an Africa getting colonised. Simply masterful.
Mar 26, 2010 Siria rated it liked it
There's an awful lot crammed into The Joys of Motherhood. At just over two hundred pages, it manages to give a picture of the status and roles available to a Nigerian woman from the 30s to the 50s; to detail the effects of urbanisation and colonialism; and to tell the life story of Nnu Ego, an Igbo woman from Nigeria, a story so grindingly sad that the title of the book must surely be one of the most sarcastic I've ever come across. It took me quite some time to read it, given its size, mostly b ...more
Madeline Cruz
Apr 15, 2013 Madeline Cruz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is powerful. The reader is given an insight to the hidden world of African women in the first half of the twentieth century. However, the ending is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking endings I have ever read. Although it was indeed sad, the way the author wrote the ending was completely necessary. I realize now as I'm holding this novel in my hands that I had hoped for Nnu Ego with all my heart throughout her tale - the very same hope she was putting into her children. The disappoin ...more
Jerome Kuseh
May 23, 2015 Jerome Kuseh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african
A sad story of a woman in the first half of 20th Century Nigeria who sacrifices everything for her children and gains nothing but the empty praise of a patriarchal society for bearing male children.

This is a story that examines the struggle to hold on to traditional Ibo values in a cosmopolitan and European influenced society.

It is also the ultimate 'be careful what you wish for tale', as a woman goes from the extreme of barrenness to having 7 children, and wondering if all her suffering was wor
Leslie Reese
Oct 20, 2014 Leslie Reese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Enthralling and devastating!
Rowland Bismark
Jun 08, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Buchi Emecheta is one of a growing number of African women writers who have set their authorial eyes on the conditions of women living both on their home continent and abroad. She takes her place among Tsitsi Dangarembga, Miriama Ba, Bessie Head, Ama Ata Aidoo, Lauretta Ngcobo, and Lindsey Collen, to name a few, as writers who have formed an intense new voice of African womanhood. Emecheta has published more than twenty works, including the novels Double Yoke, The Bride Price, Head above Water, ...more
Neal Adolph
Wow. I think I was in a trance when I was reading most of this work. It was as though it was the history of a nation growing up and being entirely unsure that progress was being made, told through the parable of a woman's experience as a mother. This mission in story-telling is one that I approach with excitement - both William Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault) and Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children) have done it so well, and with devastating powers of observation. The scope here, though, is sma ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Lily rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Interest in Nigeria
A thoughtful exploration of "motherhood" as perceived by Igbo Nigerian Buchi Emecheta. Each chapter title suggests the issue pursued, e.g., "The Mother's Mother," "A Failed Woman," "A Man is Never Ugly," "A Mother's Investment," "Sharing a Husband," "Men at War," "A Good Daughter," "Women Alone," "A Mother of Clever Children," "The Canonised Mother." (18 total)

Style is direct. I'm not certain how well the time line would hold if the life and event points were plotted. Emecheta seems to want to t
Jul 24, 2016 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nasser Aldhafeeri
I am trying to provide a review of the novel “The Joys of Motherhood” written by Buchi Emecheta. Buchi Emecheta was born on 21st July 1944 in Lagos. She has published over 20 books. She brings themes and issue of maternity, female rights and girls rights to free education in her writings. She has been praised for her writing and have been awarded many international prizes.

This novel is an expression of thoughts that focuses on the feelings, behavior and culture that were existed around Second W
Adebiyi Adedotun
The Joys Of Motherhood.

It tells the moving story of Nnu Ego, a W.African woman devoted to her children, giving them all her life -with the result that she finds herself friendless & alone in middle age.

She gave it all for her children but never got any benefit , she later died & she died like
"Nnu ego lay down by the roadside, thinking she had arrived home. She died quietly there"

Nnu Ego, a west African woman Who married Nnaife a then washer man for his British masters
Zachary Morgan
Apr 25, 2013 Zachary Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zachary by: Diya Abdo
The Joys of Motherhood is a novella that from the beginning caught my attention. Beginning in a flurry with the main character, Nnu Ego, running “her senses momentarily stunned by the color of the road which seemed to be that of blood and water,”(7) causes the reader to become enthralled as you wonder exactly why she is running and from what. As we further find out in the same chapter Emecheta informs the reader that Ego is in awe of her “chi,”(9) which was going to ensure that her life was not ...more
Jul 12, 2007 Namrirru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, womens
She lives a life of few ups, mostly downs. But the story doesn't dwell in darkness. It plows forward, like the mother in this story. It's a real page turner.

I found it interesting how the people whose point of view are most detailed are the people whom the mother identifies with the most. Besides the mother, this includes her father, children, and even her first co-wife. The other people in her life are like shadows with voices. Even the husband is less personalized and when he is, it's usually
Jul 23, 2016 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is great work; a classic. Emecheta tells the story of a woman, Nnu Ego during the time of British colonialism in Nigeria. It is a story of how colonial rule wrought significant change for Ibos in the colony, but especially Ibo women. Emecheta vividly tells a story of the clash between pre-modern Ibo life and Ibo cosmology with that of colonial modernity. The author deals with these complications through the lens of an African feminism that allows her to deal with the impositions of colonial ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Sanhita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Though set in 1940s the status of women as described in a marginally refined, will still hold good in the rural areas of many countries.
A woman right from her birth, as the protagonist NnuEgo in this book, always belongs to someone. She is not her own self, has no right to take decisions of her own. She belongs to her father, husband, sons.....unfortunately this distinction remains true till she dies. The descriptions are vivid and makes you feel part of the life and the pain of this woman. Wo
Aug 05, 2013 Olayemi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Words cant explain exactly how I felt about the book. It started with Ona and Agbadi the daughter Nnu Ego
through her upheavals. I love how she ties families and friends and how their relationship are.
She also referred to the role of woman in the Nigerian community regardless of the tribe.
This was a real page turner for me.
One of my favourite quotes "You are simply not allowed to commit suicide in peace,because everyone is responsible for the other person. Foreigners may call us a nation of busy
Apr 22, 2011 Dawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt evey bit of Nnu Ego's struggles, and I'm glad of the acceptance she came to just before the book ended. I don't believe her misfortunes are typical though, even if such an exaggeration is neccessary to bring up the issues Buchi is trying to hammer on. I like that she was not judgemental, examining it from the viewpoints of all the parties involved.
There is practicality to African culture if held seperate from western culture. Unfortunately this is impossible, and poor Ego and Nnaife were
Cheryl Goveia
Oct 07, 2015 Cheryl Goveia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
The writing style was initially off putting...very slow and primitive, but the content was unmistakably heart wrenching. The slow pulling apart of tradition and change is inhuman and reflects horrors going on in the world still today. This is an important book full of questions and frustrations and I was left feeling grateful and deeply sad because these problems continue, and it seems always will. I recommend this to Millennials.
Eliza Stevenson
Dec 06, 2015 Eliza Stevenson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the first half of the twentieth century in Nigeria, The Joys of Motherhood portrays a young woman struggling with the erosion of tradition and it’s effect on her goals and sense of identity. From the very first page, The Joys of Motherhood ironically and intellectually blew any expectations I had for the novel away. Buchi Emecheta is astute and calculated in her portrayal of disparate aspects of Nigeria and the turbulent life of the protagonist, Nnu Ego. The Joys of Motherhood is at once ...more
William Burton
When I read The Joys of Motherhood for my African Women Writers class, I was expecting something that was very different from what the novel actually offered. I was thrown off by the Title of the book which implies the book would be about “the joys” of being a mother. However what I got was a story largely about about the struggles of a Nigerian woman to become the mother that she dreamed of becoming and how she does not exactly get what she was expecting. The protagonist view of motherhood is r ...more
H. Layla
Dec 03, 2015 H. Layla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood is a brilliant collaged work addressing the complexities of colonized living in 20th century Nigeria. Emecheta uses both native and foreign ideologies, and the cashing of the two, to create a real, relevant depiction of Nigerian womanhood—and the versatilities of the concept. The novel is interested in the elements of Western (colonial) patriarchy, Nigerian patriarchy, and the remnants of colonialism during a shifting time in Nigeria’s history. The lens th ...more
Gavriella Troper-hochstein
Extremely well written. I was a little perturbed by the bitterness and lack of any true joy that the main character lived with. While the circumstances that created such a miserable person could potentially cause a constant disgust with life, it seemed to me that Nnu Ego never had any moments of true joy after her first marriage, not even in remembering happier times.
This wasn't the only little thing that bothered me. I was troubled by the obscured nature of the book's conclusion. Somehow, whet
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed Buchi Emecheta’s Joys of Motherhood from both a craft standpoint and as a feminist text, though the protagonist Nnu Ego is not a classic "strong female character" like we enjoy seeing in the western media. While Nnu Ego does not fight giant robots like the women in the second Avengers or march for women’s rights like the women in Selma, Nnu Ego embodies one type of an African feminist ideal. Nnu Ego's mother Ona, on the other hand, who dies in childbirth, is more ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Ishita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heart-wrenching, complex, and thought provoking, Emecheta's deceptively simple prose questions the idea of childbearing as synonymous with female fulfillment. Set in Emecheta's native Nigeria during World War II, this tale follows the life of Nnu Ego who is struggling to find her place within a world that is in flux between tradition and modernity, and constantly questioning the role, responsibilities, and status of women. An intensely emotional read.
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Buchi Emecheta OBE (born 21 July 1944, in Lagos) is 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 Br ...more
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“God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage? she prayed desperately.” 11 likes
“In Ibuza sons help their father more than they help their mother. A mother's joy is only in the name. She worries over them,looks after them when they are small;but in the actual help on the farm ,the upholding of the family name,all belong to the father.” 2 likes
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