The Joys of Motherhood
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Joys of Motherhood

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,606 ratings  ·  128 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, 224 pages
Published May 17th 1980 by George Braziller Inc. (first published April 1st 1979)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,851)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
☯Emily has reviews on Booklikes
Jun 05, 2012 ☯Emily has reviews on Booklikes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women interested in the African world and its impact on women
Recommended to ☯Emily has reviews on Booklikes 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
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.
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.
Madeline Cruz
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
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
Rowland Bismark
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
Zachary Morgan
Apr 25, 2013 Zachary Morgan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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...more
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...more
It was over a year ago I read this one, so my memory's a little foggy, but I remember being struck from page one: the main character, a woman, is running down the road, as if fleeing, but she's also running toward something, and she's also afraid of being seen. The title is meant to be ironic, and I dare not spoil the rest.
Nana Fredua-Agyeman
This is the sad story of a woman who wants children and got them but found out that happiness is not in children as his children grew and left home. The following link leads to my review on my blog.

Very glad I stuck this one out. The writing style has the feel of an oral story, which to this Canadian reader was at times tedious - heavy dialogue exposition, not what I tend to think of as "good writing."

But the story was excellent, complex and brilliant at showing me some things about Igbo culture and customs in transition with the urbanization of Nigeria pre and post-WWII.

The protagonist, Nnu Ego, struggles her whole life with societal expectations of her to be a "good woman," "good daugh...more
I think this my all-time favorite book ever. It leads you through the journey of a Nigerian woman's life- through her miscarriages, her husband's other wives, her live children, and all of her struggles just to survive and raise her children.
Jerome Kuseh
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...more
Tanya Welden
One of the most moving books I have ever read. Emecheta captures all the pain of living as a woman in post-colonial Africa. This book changed me forever.
Oct 08, 2007 Calley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women and men who want to understand them
A heartbreaking piece on the role of women in traditional African society, and the fractured nature of that society as modernism rolls on.
Buchi Emecheta is a very expressive writer. More people should be exposed to her work. All of her titles are worth reading...
Dec 03, 2007 Erik09 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults, mostly ladies
good feeling
"Why that kind of a title?!" asked my mom as I shortly explained the story to her. The question is good indeed. Is the title irony? Partly, for sure. But on the other hand, not at all. The only joy of Nnu Ego's life seems to be the motherhood.

Emecheta's novel is the most cruel description of a life of a woman in the mist of a changing society from tribal to city life. Born in Nigerian village beginning of 20th century and moving to the city of Lagos, to live with a husband not so pleasant, Nnu E...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
The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta unfolds the story of Nnu Ego, a woman struggling with the shackles of patriarchy, the expectations of womanhood, and survival in the changing yet unchanging paradigm of Lagos, Nigeria. The book begins in a village far away from Lagos, free from signs of modernization and “progress.” Nnu Ego’s young womanhood advances in a series of unfortunate landmarks, all showing contradictory understandings of womanhood. Unable to bear her first husband a son, Nnu Ego...more
Cj (Siege)
If you come into this book expecting kittens and rainbows then I am saddened to tell you that this is not what you are looking for. Buchi Emecheta’s novel The Joys of Motherhood provides everything but what the title tries to provide its readers. Even with the ironic and misleading title for the novel, Buchi is able to create a solid and intriguing character story about motherhood in Africa.
The plot revolves around the main character Nnu Ego and her struggles with her duty as a mother. Nnu goe...more
This review was originally posted on my blog,

I picked up this book because it is listed in the reading material for the MIT Open Course Ware’s class, Gender, Power and International Development. I am slowly working through this course and would love to hear from anyone else who has gone through it, either on campus or online.

From the inside flap:
“After a childless first marriage Nnu Ego, the daughter of a Nigerian chief, is sent from her village to Lagos to marry Nnaif...more
Rianne Smith
This was one of the most captivating books I’ve read evidenced by the excitement I felt the whole time. The suspense stayed intact throughout the entire book up until the last word. Each sentence, paragraph and chapter left me wanting more and it definitely delivered.
It was my second time reading a book by a West African writer but my first reading a book that was written by a West African woman. I was glad read a book that was based in semi-pre-colonial West Africa as the perspective given wa...more
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...more
Zachary Littrell
I came to this thinking it would just be a book about a Nigerian mother. From chapter 1, it becomes clear that this is an emotional roller coaster. There were times I had to put the book down, because life can't let Nnu Ego, a woman who struggles against adverse conditions, be happy for five minutes.

I'm unashamed to say that my eyes were watering at the ending. Be prepared.
One of the most powerful novels I've ever read. Emecheta is unrelenting in this depiction in the harsh reality of life as a Nigerian woman during colonial times, offering incredible commentary on marriage, motherhood, polygamy, and ethnic and race relations.The language is reminiscent of Achebe in its spare, sarcastic tone. I felt that women were richly depicted in the book, which was a welcome breath of fresh air, but the male characters sometimes veered on the two-dimensional. Most interesting...more
I loved this book. Nnu Ego's story was truly captivating.
more like ''the many pains of motherhood'' but i enjoyed every page.

Buchi Emecheta's detailed expression of what resembles the lives of many Nnu Egos in Nigeria, and in Africa kept me glued to every page.
Kris Sieloff
Important novel about gender in Nigeria's Ibo culture, showing the contrast between village life and that in Lagos, the seat of British colonial power. This would be an excellent companion novel to Achebe's Things Fall Apart.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 95 96 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Changes: A Love Story
  • God's Bits of Wood
  • The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
  • Efuru
  • When Rain Clouds Gather
  • Houseboy
  • A Grain of Wheat
  • The House of Hunger
  • Everything Good Will Come
  • Aké: The Years of Childhood
  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard
  • Anthills of the Savannah
  • Mine Boy
  • So Long a Letter
  • Nervous Conditions
  • The Concubine
  • On Black Sisters Street: A Novel
Second Class Citizen The Bride Price The Slave Girl: A Novel Kehinde Head Above Water

Share This Book

“God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage? she prayed desperately.” 3 likes
“Nnu Ego was like those not-so well-informed Christians who,promised the Kingdom of Heaven,believed that it was literally just round the corner and that Jesus Christ was coming on the very morrow. Many of them would hardly contribute anything ton this world,reasoning, "What is the use? Christ will come soon" They became so insulated in their beliefs that not only would they have little to do with ordinary sinners,people going about their daily work, they even pitied them and in many cases looked down on them because the Kingdom of God was not for the likes of them. Maybe this was a protective mechanism devised to save them from realities too painful to accept.” 1 likes
More quotes…