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Joys of Motherhood, The (2nd Edition)

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This story of a young mother's struggles in 1950s Lagos is a powerful commentary on polygamy, patriarchy, and women's changing roles in urban Nigeria.

224 pages, Paperback

First published May 17, 1979

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 612 reviews
Profile Image for Bel Rodrigues.
Author 2 books19.3k followers
September 15, 2021
"os homens... a única coisa em que eles estavam interessados era em bebês homens para dar continuidade a seu nome. mas por acaso uma mulher não precisava trazer ao mundo a mulher-bebê que mais tarde geraria os filhos? “Deus, quando você irá criar uma mulher que se sinta satisfeita com sua própria pessoa, um ser humano pleno, não o apêndice de alguém?”, orava ela em desespero."

eu nem sei o que falar dessa leitura. (4,5 ⭐)
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,465 followers
June 11, 2015
“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 half has all the marks of colonialism and the struggle the locals went through to keep up with the changing society.

I've always felt that the most fascinating books about Africa are the ones about transitional periods because they offer so many contrasts. Emecheta uses her novel to look at colonialism, an important backdrop to the story of the female protagonist, Nnu Ego, with a critical eye. It was interesting to see the clashes between the African and the British ways; I couldn't help but imagine what might had been had the colonialists been a little bit more culturally sensitive.

This book is rich with sociological detail. I enjoyed reading about how the migration of Nigerians from the villages into the cities created a complex society. Not only do neighbours speak different languages coming from different parts of the country, the inhabitants have to forget their village ways if they are to remain sane. The realization hits the newcomer (Nnu Ego) to the city that she has to change her ways:

"She had been trying to be traditional in a modern urban setting. It was because she wanted to be a woman of Ibuza in a town like Lagos that she lost her child. This time she was going to play according to the new rules."

And the new rules are the British colonialist rules. I know colonialism did so much damage in Africa but it's mainly books like this that help me understand to understand the extent to which the societies changed. Even simple things like the materials used to build a house, or the type of jobs men took to be considered "men" changed with colonialism, and these often had their repercussions:

“Things have changed a lot. This is the age of the white man. Nowadays every young man wants to cement his mud hut and cover it with corrugated-iron sheets instead of the palm leaves we are used to.”

I'm currently interested in the participation of African soldiers during WW2 so I read with interest the portions that described the Nigerian men being forcibly conscripted into the army. They went to Burma to fight yet they didn't even know who they were fighting, why they were fighting, or where Burma was. That was one of the most upsetting parts of the book for me. When Nnu Ego said, "There is nothing we can do. The British own us, just like God does, and just like God they are free to take any of us when they wish", I was stunned because the Nigerians, like all Africans at one time in their history, really had no power over their own country.

“It’s unbelievable…Why can’t they fight their own wars? Why drag us innocent Africans into it?”

Soon you realize the title of the book is very ironic. What are the joys of motherhood when your life is dependent on producing children, preferably sons; when you have to share your husband with another woman; when you can't afford to feed or clothe your children, send them to school? Yet, motherhood was what made an African woman at that time a woman. No other choices were really available to her. She strived to be a complete women,” i.e. women with children.

This book was sad to read on so many levels. I was able to feel the repression Nnu Ego faced as she struggled to be “a full woman, full of children." I felt frustrated with her at times, sometimes I just wanted to hug her when I could feel how much she was hurting and how few options she had. Emecheta showed the pressure and the strain that women were often under to be perfect, the effect that patriarchy has on women. Perhaps not much has changed.

"I wanted to die, because I failed to live up to the standard expected of me by the males in my family, my father and my husband—and now I have to include my sons. But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We women subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man’s world, which women will always help to build.”

I definitely plan on reading more books by Emecheta this year.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews593 followers
January 29, 2015
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 overcome marital struggles (polygamy, patriarchy and more). That is, if you were looking at this book through symbolic lenses, which, if you've read post-colonial writers like Wa Thiong'o, Achebe, and Soyinka, you'll find it difficult to avoid doing this.

However, the story centers around Nnu Ego, whose parents are Chief Agbadi and Ona (the chief's mistress and the love of his life). Though the chief has a few wives (the setting is that of a polygamous society), everyone is aware that Ona has his heart. Yet Ona refuses to marry him because her father will not allow it, and also because she fears that once she is his wife, she will lose his love and respect: "she suspected, however, that her fate would be the same as that of his other women should she consent to become one of his wives."So when they have a daughter, Nnu, Ona makes the chief promise to "allow her [Nnu] to have a life of her own, a husband if she wants one."
"He who roars like a lion."
"My sons, you will all grow to be kings among men."
"He who roars like a lion."
"My daughters, you will all grow to rock your children's children."

If you've already spotted the injustice within the dialogue, you've unearthed the limitations of the patriarchal society that Emecheta tries to showcase in her fiction. Don't be tricked by the title, for the story is not simply about the joys of motherhood, rather, it is an inquiry into the intersection of womanhood and motherhood, and the setting is a place where women are ostracized for being unmarried and childless.
I am a prisoner of my own flesh and blood. Is it such an enviable position?

In Nnu Ego's culture, a woman could be an ostracized lover, yes, but a barren woman, no. Reading along, you sense the subtle, but clear question that accompanies this ideal: why must it be this way?
But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We women subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man's world, which women will always help to build.

I read this book years ago, but decided to revisit it after Thiong'o reminded me of African literary prowesses like Emecheta and Dangarembga, when I attempted his book, Wizard of the Crow. Emecheta is the author of more than ten novels, some of which are semi-autobiographical. It is alleged that she started having children at age sixteen and when her first husband burned her first novel after he refused to read it, she left and tried to raise her children on her own. While reading this novel, there were moments when I was reminded of So Long a Letter, and yet the distant narration and simple-sentence structure that relies on dialogue, is much different than the intimate first-person voice that empowers Ba's novel. What Ba does well in that book is address a reader who may not have a shared community, but shared values; a sort of universality that appeals to the non-Nigerian or African reader. The Joys of Motherhood is very region-specific, and although they were only sprinkles, there are words or descriptions that could prove offsetting to some Caucasian readers. However, there are important themes embedded within dialogue (something Emecheta does better than others), which makes me plan on visiting more of her works this year.
…If you don't have children the longing for them will kill you, and if you do, the worrying over them will kill you.
Profile Image for Alwynne.
585 reviews593 followers
January 12, 2023
It took me a while to fully connect with Buchi Emecheta’s novel but once I did I couldn’t put it down. It marks a move away from her earlier semi-autobiographical work, charting instead the rapid shifts taking place in Nigerian society during the first half of the twentieth century, probing their devastating consequences for many Nigerian women, particularly wives and mothers. Emecheta tells her story through the experiences of Nnu Ego, an Ibo (Igbo) woman born in the age of “the white man” who’s forced to leave her rural home to marry a man she’s never met. Nnu winds up in Lagos, a British colony where her family are dependent for their livelihood on the whims of their colonisers. Brought up to believe that motherhood’s the highest honour women can hope for, Nnu pins everything on having children who'll be the pride of her old age, but as time passes her society changes beyond recognition and her dreams for her future fade away.

It's a meticulously detailed, searing piece, first published in 1979 it’s also an excellent example of emerging Black feminist writing that both affirmed and fiercely challenged the assumptions of mainstream, white feminism. Through the small tragedies faced by her creation Nnu, Emecheta reflects on questions of colonialism, patriarchy and generational strife, and what it might feel like to be a woman whose values and traditions are slowly being destroyed. Emecheta’s narrative’s also a fascinating exploration of the tension between Western individualism and societies in which connection and community were once key to survival. A clash of cultures that, for Nnu, results in everything falling apart, leaving her to deal with profound loss, the loss of familial networks through which women like her gained their sense of worth and belonging, the loss of rituals of motherhood and mourning that once rooted her identity and sustained her through harsh times.

Emecheta’s a great storyteller with a disarmingly direct style. She draws extensively on Nigerian oral traditions, and carefully links her narrative to earlier work by African women like Flora Nwapa whose novel Efuru provided Emecheta with her deeply ironic title. One of the most acclaimed Black writers of her era, Emecheta was included on Granta’s list of best British novelists and features as one of the BBC’s "women who changed the world", yet her writing is comparatively – unjustly - neglected, I hope the continuing republication of her work by Penguin opens up the new and wider audiences she richly deserves.

Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Modern Classics for an ARC
Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews945 followers
March 10, 2016
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 placate her angry spirit, frees all of his slaves and bans the practice of enslaving captives taken in conflict, but the legacy of slavery is not so easily expunged: Nnu Ego suffers the rage of her chi. Another character later comments on the irony of white settlers banning slavery and continuing to employ native black workers in conditions indistinguishable from slavery. This agitated, complex, multivalent engagement with troubled histories of slavery is characteristic of Buchi Emecheta's fictional biography of an Igbo woman born to a prosperous, highly respected family in a village where pre-colonial lifestyles seem undisturbed. In contrast to this setting is the British colonial city of Lagos, where Nnu Ego, having not conceived a child by her first husband (due to the machinations of her chi) is married to a washerman. Having lived in comfort in Igbo villages, she spends her years in Lagos locked in a constant desperate struggle to earn enough money to feed her ever-expanding family, consoling herself with the knowledge that she has fulfilled society's expectations of her as a mother and wife.

Recently I have been reading a lot of books by women that I find to be strongly feminist, and have what strike me as silly, patronising cover notes that are rendered ironic by the content. John Updike reckons, approvingly, that this 'graceful, touching, ironically titled tale... bears a plain feminist message'. Although this is praise, I actually feel it creates a false and belittling impression of the work, which is not simple, in its structure or in its feminist 'message' . The book appears to reach a conclusion when Nnu Ego asks
God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody's appendage?
and Emecheta elaborates in Nnu Ego's thoughts as she names her younger twin daughters
The men make it look as if we must aspire for children or die. That's why when I lost my first son I wanted to die, because I failed to live up to the standard expected of me by the males in my life, my father and my husband -- and now I have to include my sons. But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We women subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man's world, which women will always help to build.
But there are several chapters to go, Emecheta is not done here exploring her interlocking themes. Significantly, Nnu Ego's struggles are shaped by the contrasting environments she moves through. Emecheta suggests that the pre-colonial context offers a better way of life to Nnu Ego and to most others. It is impossible not to wonder what would have happened to Oshia, for example, if Nnu Ego had not been forced to return to Lagos. However, Emecheta employs images of healthy female and especially male bodies to complicate this point, when Nnu Ego contrasts the younger and older Nnu Ego, or Nnu Ego herself with Adaku, and contrasts her first husband with Nnaife. The colonised body is shown as distended, aged, faded, odorous, somehow unnatural. Even more significantly, the colonised body loses its gender. Nnu Ego's constant gender-normative criticisms of Nnaife's work and body reveal how her socialisation in the village structures her critical, attritive, but overall solid acceptance of patriarchal gender roles. In fact, Nnu Ego's trans-phobic horror of Nnaife's job, and Adaku's decision to seize independence by becoming a sex worker, suggest that gender roles may be less rigid in Lagos; the city is a site of disruption as it forces desperate measures.

This is not to say that the colonial context of Lagos is less patriarchal or less hostile to female independence. As if to foreshadow continual gendered violence, Nnu Ego is raped by her husband when she arrives. For me, this recalls bell hooks writing about African American disaporas
African men, even those coming from communities where sex roles shaped the division of labour, where the status of men was different and most times higher than that of women, had to be taught to equate their higher status as men with the right to dominate women, they had to be taught patriarchal masculinity. They had to be taught that it was acceptable to use to violence to establish patriarchal power. - bell hooks, We Real Cool
While her mother enjoyed comparative sexual freedom and qualified affirmation of her desires in the village, Nnu Ego experiences the moralistic, misogynistic Christian approach to sexuality enforced by Nnaife's employer. The relationship between Nnu Ego and her husband's inherited younger wife Adaku also provides rich material to investigate the complexity of village/urban gender dynamics. When Adaku arrives, Nnu Ego speculates, only partly accurately, about the kind of relationship the beautiful woman will have with her husband. Emecheta explicitly suggests that a senior wife must behave in some respects 'like a man' and Nnu Ego certainly feels unfeminine beside Adaku. She does not give birth to any sons, thus 'failing' to affirm her husband's manhood, yet, resourceful Adaku attains a degree of autonomy and, significantly, the means of education for her daughters, thus casting off the male-orientation that Nnu Ego retains to the end.

Another 'compliment' from The Sunday Times (a British newspaper) reads 'Emecheta is a born writer'. No doubt well intended, this comment is often made condescendingly about writers of colour, especially female, and even white women, who are seen to have produced great art by chance, by a freakish gift of talent, rather than by effort and intelligence. The simple and direct prose is full of irony "[Nnu Ego] crawled further into the urine-stained mats on her bug-ridden bed, enjoying the knowledge of her motherhood" and the story encompasses global events from an exploited and underinformed colonial viewpoint. Nnaife is forced to fight for the British in the war, leaving Nnu Ego to struggle on to provide for the family alone. Emecheta also explores the theme of tribal tensions in Lagos, where the Igbo are a minority among the Yoruba. Emecheta has these groups making near identical criticisms of each other, founded on generic fears of difference, despite their commonalities, for example the sense of community 'we all belong to each other' conveyed extraordinarily vividly in a scene of attempted suicide. Yet Nnu Ego's thoughtful daughter (second born) Kehinde is able to cross these divides. As the narrative dissipates, hope flows out in many unexpected directions.
Profile Image for Nnedi.
Author 151 books15.1k followers
March 19, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Oyinda.
661 reviews155 followers
December 13, 2020
This was a reread for me, after first reading this book in my early teenage years. I have always had a special place in my heart for this book, because it had such a huge impact on me as a young reader. Without even knowing it at the time, this book shaped and heavily influenced my feminism. When I was rereading, I discovered that while I remembered a number of key points and major events in the story, I had forgotten some parts. It was amazing to read and experience it all over again, and see things from a new perspective as an adult reader. I read this book along with @itan.ile on Instagram, and out conversations about some events and the ending of the book made the reading experience even better for me.

Buchi Emecheta writes the most powerful stories. I have read two other books of hers this year – Second Hand Citizen and The Bride Price. She has a very interesting way of writing women and ending their stories (trying super hard not to post spoilers LOL). This is a story of motherhood, but don’t be deceived by the title – there’s hardly anything joyful in Nnu Ego’s story. Emecheta takes us through Nnu Ego’s journey in search of children, and her journey after she finally gets her much sought-after children. She toiled and labored and suffered, living for some time as a single mother in a Lagos that was dealing with the second-hand effect of British wars.

She explored so many themes over various settings in Ibuza and Lagos. She paints a vivid picture of marriage, motherhood, strife, and reaping the fruits of your labor (one thing Nnu Ego was so sure she’d get more than anything). This book made me really sad, angry, and I felt a lot of raw emotions. I loved it so much, and I doubt I’d ever stop!
Profile Image for Raul.
282 reviews202 followers
February 13, 2018
A moving story wonderfully written. Buchi Emecheta narrates of the woes and hardships women, particularly poor women, face in a patriarchal society.

Moving through rural to urban colonial Nigeria, this book explores the burdening demands placed on women. Nnu Ego who is the protagonist of the story lives her whole life in servitude of the men in her life, first her father then her husband and later her sons, all the while leaving her with nothing but harsh solitude and weariness.

I normally hesitate to call books powerful, but this one truly is.
Profile Image for Monika.
170 reviews268 followers
July 29, 2018
This ironically titled tale of Nnu Ego is, in layers, a plain feminist text. The Joys of Motherhood covers both the traditional as well as the 'modern' (aka, the British colonialism). Emecheta draws a stolid picture of the woes and hardship of women, particularly a poor woman in a patriarchal world. Just like any other commodities, even the women themselves believe that their husbands own them. Nnu Ego gave her whole life to be on the receiving end of the 'joys of motherhood', but when she died, [s]he died quietly there, with no child to hold her hand and no friend to talk to her.
Profile Image for Claire.
651 reviews278 followers
February 18, 2019
Her mother's dying wish for her (never a wife herself, she guarded her freedom and was like her father's son) was that Nnu Ego would firstly, 'have a life of her own' and secondly, be allowed to 'be a woman'.
We meet her on a day she is distraught, wracked by bitter disappointment, over the loss of her first child.
Every chapter is like a new phase in her life, one that might hold the key to the elusive fulfillment she seeks, to a change in fortune, and yet every chapter brings more disappointment, sacrifice and what seem like insurmountable challenges.

Worse, how her efforts are perceived by her husband, who manages to view all through only the lens of its impact on his reputation. He has the essence of a traditional upbringing combined with an inherited patriarchal sense of entitlement, learned from his colonial masters at the same time, unmanned by the 'feminised' occupation he fulfills for them.

They believe in sacrifice and reward, but it eludes them, in their failure to notice the societal changes around them, the new freedoms young people in Lagos subscribe to, the intermingling of people's, the ambitions of youth that no longer support their families and younger siblings.

Nnu regrets neglecting friendship, the one thing that may have provided solace outside of marriage and children, she encourages it in her daughters and remaining son.
Even in death she is resented, a shrine set up for villagers to appeal to if barren, a wish her spirit did not always grant.
For they believed she had it all, that the joy of being a mother was the joy of giving all to your children.

Was this a response to Efuru's closing lines? That story of a woman who achieved fulfillment outside of wifehood and motherhood? "She had never experienced the joys of motherhood. Why then did women worship her?"
13 years after Nwapa's question, Emecheta presents her novel of motherhood's questionable joys.

Brilliant. One of the best reads of 2019 definitely.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
917 reviews948 followers
November 13, 2020
Deservedly considered a “classic”, though the societal changes it critiques took place almost a hundred years ago now, so that critique has lost something of its urgency and freshness. Which is not to say, of course, that the fault lines between ideas of “womanhood” and “motherhood” do not remain fraught and ripe for criticism.

Written in very much the naturalist style, in unadorned and uncomplicated prose, but with compelling characterisation and plot.

Well worth reading
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,160 reviews141 followers
January 8, 2023
This novel tells the life story of Nnu Ego, favourite daughter of a powerful Ibo man. Set mostly in the 1930-40s, it shows the hard life of a woman in Nigeria. The expectations on wives to have sons, the hard work to provide for the family, dealing with other wives and lots of other day to day issues. All this is set against the backdrop of colonialism and the changing society as education becomes more important, as moving to Lagos and working for white people affects traditional values and beliefs. World war 2 also has a major impact as Nnu’s husband is sent off to war. The writing drew me into the story and I found it an enjoyable and moving read.
Profile Image for ☯Emily  Ginder.
580 reviews99 followers
November 26, 2014
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. However, she gradually recovers when she has a second child. She then has many more children. She devotes her life in educating her oldest son, trusting in the African tradition that he will support her and help educate his siblings. However, he does not do that. Instead he goes to American to continue his education, contributing nothing. Her other children are also a disappointment. Her husband is no help. He spends his money on drink. Even though he can't afford it, he takes on a second and later a third wife. He has nothing left emotionally or financially for Nnu Ego and her children. When his children don't meet his expectations, he blames Nnu Ego. Everything that can go wrong, does. It is not a cheerful, hopeful book.

Intertwined in Nnu Ego's story, is the changing face of Nigeria. The English has colonial control over Nigeria in beginning of the book. When the English enter World War II, they force Nnu Ego's husband to become a soldier. He goes to Burma to fight for a cause and an enemy that is unknown to him. The war changes him for the worse. After the war, Nigeria is striving and preparing for independence. The young are eager for change, but the older generation tries to cling to the past and its traditions.

I got the feeling that if Nnu had been born ten or fifteen years earlier or later, she would have had a fulfilling role as a productive member of society. Instead, torn between two cultures and unable to adapt, she dies at the side of road, unwanted and unloved.
Profile Image for Adriana Scarpin.
1,382 reviews
July 14, 2019
Há tantos motivos para se gostar desse livro que nem sei por onde começar...
A primeira coisa que nos salta aos olhos é a qualidade da prosa da autora, ao mesmo tempo que ela envolve o leitor, o seu conteúdo de uma cultura extremamente diferente da nossa tanto no tempo quanto no espaço, é um abrir de olhos incomensurável.
Apesar da cultura nigeriana de meados do século XX ser extremamente distinta da nossa brasileira do século XXI, esse livro tem uma qualidade universal a respeito da maternidade que nos faz relacionar também às nossas avós e o motivo do porque elas terem tido tantos filhos e assim como elas, a protagonista deste livro no fim da vida aprendeu a ironia da expressão que nos induz ao título "alegrias da maternidade", quando na realidade se aplica a uma vida de sofrimentos e pouca alegria, para ser esquecida no final com o brilhante e amargo desenrolar descrito pela a autora.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,792 reviews1,308 followers
March 27, 2010
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 because it demands such emotional resilience of the reader—Nnu Ego's life isn't a happy one. This is not an uplifting story—there is no happy ending, no cheerful moral—and I think that's why it's ultimately worth reading. It's a very complex, aware dissection of contemporary Nigerian society (and, by extension, the white cultures with which it comes in contact.)

However (there's always a however, isn't there?), I don't think Emecheta's prose was strong enough to sustain her story. It was quite flat, and while I found the characterisation of Nnu Ego's parents—who appear in the beginning of the book—to be intriguing, Nnu Ego herself was never delineated strongly enough for me. There were also some moments of slightly anachronistic moralising—where Nnu Ego, for example, wonders if women will ever be free to make their own choices before thinking of her daughters as objects to be sold away into marriage—which jarred me out of the novel. Not a life-changing book, but worth picking up.
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,328 followers
March 31, 2017
Not at all my cup of tea. I understand of course that it's a classic of African feminism, but I found no literary value in it.

And I expect to encounter this experience frequently this year as I flip through my shelves of AWS and Virago. Which sounds condescending, but don't. Typically I read, led by the nose by my spidey senses which are oddly reliable. Here I'm reading rather arbitrarily ; just whatever these publishers put on their shelves and which I happened to find on the shelves of bookshops for cheap. Not doing any research here. What I do know is that an awful lot of these are BURIED ; if they're any good. But that just brings me to my Question : I've got maybe five dozen from these two publishers on my shelves--Should I in good conscience finish to the bitter end each volume I pick up, or when I get the picture, should I move on to the next, giving more books a chance? Because shouldn't I just be interested in digging out what's worth DIGging? But I do so much like to get the whole thing read.

What, Dear Reader, would you do?
Profile Image for Diane Brown.
Author 3 books39 followers
December 22, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Akho.
7 reviews8 followers
May 22, 2017
This is one book I could NOT wait to finish, not because it is not good. It is in fact a BRILLIANT book and checks all the boxes of what qualifies it as a masterpiece! I could not wait to finish it because it is painful. Poverty and Black pain is triggering, As much as it was a page turner, I did so with tears in my eyes at times. I'm still thinking about Nnu Ego and her plight because she tells a story that is lived by so many African women
Profile Image for Marina.
71 reviews67 followers
June 7, 2018
What a destiny, what a life. So this is what it is like to be a mother ? a devoted one ? a faithful wife . Nnu Ego i admire you.
Profile Image for Pedro Pacifico Book.ster.
296 reviews3,628 followers
March 31, 2020
Diferentemente do que o título dá a entender, não se trata de um livro sobre alegrias. A maternidade abordada por Emecheta, escritora nigeriana de incrível talento, também está longe daquele conceito idealizado sobre a criação dos filhos. O que encontramos nessa obra é a difícil vida de uma Nnu Ego nigeriana, nascida no interior do país e que é enviada para a capital para se casar com um homem que nem conhece.

Nnu Ego é filha de um grande líder da tribo em que nasceu. Acostumada com as tradições de seu povo, a personagem sofre um choque cultural ao chegar na capital da Nigéria e se deparar com a dura vida nas grandes cidades – fortemente influenciadas pelos colonizadores. A presença do contraste entre a identidade de cada povo africano e dos colonizadores é muito forte na obra. É triste identificar como a mentalidade do colonizador branco tenta silenciar os costumes e tradições de uma nação.

Além disso, a narrativa tem um grande enfoque na constante batalha de Nnu Ego para criar seus filhos em situações precárias e, em grande parte do tempo, completamente sozinha. Qual o papel da mulher na cultura africana? Porque ela deve suportar tantas responsabilidades e se submeter ao injusto crivo moral da sociedade?

Ao se colocar no lugar da protagonista, não há como terminar esse livro sem uma visão mais real e empática sobre a maternidade e sobre as discriminações que ela sofre apenas por ser mulher. Apesar de publicado em 1979, a abordagem da autora sobre temáticas sensíveis e de inegável relevância social é muito atual.

Ah, não dá para deixar de dizer que a escrita de Emecheta também é deliciosa, muito agradável de ler, daquelas que as páginas passam sem você se dar conta. Inclusive, a história da autora não diverge muito da escrita nessa obra. Prometida ao seu marido desde os 11, casou aos 16 anos. Foi vítima de um casamento violento e perturbado. Talvez seja por isso que a sua visão sobre as condições da mulher nigeriana é tão facilmente transmitida ao leitor, que compartilha das angústias da protagonista.

Nota: 9,5/10

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Profile Image for Alessandra Jarreta.
206 reviews36 followers
February 26, 2018
Sem palavras pra esse livro. Espero que as editoras acordem e publiquem mais coisas dessa autora fantástica por aqui. Tinha que ser indicação da Chimamanda <3
Profile Image for Solange Cunha.
192 reviews23 followers
May 1, 2022
Uma aula de História. Gostando muito de aprender sobre uma cultura tão diferente com a Buchi Emecheta e a controlar o meu olhar julgador (muito eurocêntrico).

Impressionante como consegui me inserir na narrativa.

O livro me fez pensar em como, mesmo diante de uma sociedade e época tão diferentes, ainda estamos discutindo maternidade compulsória e tantas violências por sermos mulher.

O final é maravilhoso.
Profile Image for Emmkay.
1,184 reviews76 followers
February 12, 2022
Fascinating novel telling the story of a Nigerian woman’s life in the first half of the twentieth century. A favoured daughter born of a passionate attachment between a chief and his mistress, Nnu Ego is sent to Lagos to marry a man she’s never met and finds herself immediately disappointed in her new husband, who washes clothes for an English couple. Her urban life is so different from life as the daughter of the chief in a polygamous rural village. Nonetheless, Nnu Ego frames her identity traditionally - as do others - around her ability to conceive children, preferably male, and assumes that one day she will be rewarded for her motherhood. The story was so multilayered and interesting, with all kinds of insights - cultural, historical, colonial, interpersonal. And full of irony too, in its denouement.

“Men - all they were interested in were male babies to keep their names going. But did not a woman have to bear the woman-child who would later bear the sons? ‘God, when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage?’ she prayed desperately. ‘After all, I was born alone, and I shall die alone. What have I gained from all this? Yes, I have many children, but what do I have to feed them on? On my life. I have to work myself to the bone to look after them. I have to give them my all. And if I am lucky enough to die in peace, I even have to give them my soul. They will worship my dead spirit to provide for them: it will be hailed as a good spirit so long as there are plenty of yams and children in the family, but if anything should go wrong, if a young wife does not conceive or there is a famine, my dead spirit will be blamed. When will I be free?’”
Profile Image for armin.
257 reviews25 followers
December 15, 2021
This was my first reading from Emecheta but not the first Nigerian fiction I have read. I must admit, I liked it better than Things Fall Apart because it has a more holistic picture of life in Nigeria during the period of transition. It has a special narrative form with a few flashbacks at the beginning but then it gets linear and works its way ahead. From time to time the main focus of the story changes to different characters but over all it's centered on Nnu Ego and her attempt to be the best mother she can despite living with inadequate men. The story somehow shows the rapid social changes in the colonization years and how people are failing to cope with these changes and keep up with them; from a society that relies on personal gods, self-vindication, and witch doctors moving towards one with institutionalized religion, law enforcement, tribunals, and hospitals. Really liked it and gonna read much more by African women!
Profile Image for Laís Arjona.
354 reviews
October 25, 2017
How much do you know about other women's struggles? Their pain? Tthe oppression and the fears other women fight everyday? How much do you know about their reality?
This book tells the story of a woman living in the colonial Nigeria, where motherhood is attached to honor, where having children is an obrigation. Nnu Ego has to struggle with infertility, the death of her kids, the hungry, the war, the colonialism, the abuses of a husband that sees her as an object. The opression, the fear, the anguish, the dissatisfaction.
Buchi Emecheta was a Nigerian woman, she was a woman abused and then abandoned by her husband, she was a single mother of five children, she was a black immigrant living in a white country, traing to raise her kids. She was a minority, but still, she raised her voice. She questioned. Her questions and reflections are SO relevant, SO important. She talkd about the importance of sorority and education and religion for women, she showed the struggles and despair of a Nigerian woman. She questioned.
As a feminist, as a woman, as a person, I can honestly say that this book changed me. It made me anguished, angry, sad. It was an exercice of empathy, a remind that we don't know all of the issues, that culture and tradition need to be respected, but it also need to be questioned.
Please, do yourself a favor and read this book, this story is really important, it need to be heard.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,597 reviews1 follower
March 15, 2018
To Nnu Ego the joys of motherhood meant acceptance in her community that she has fulfilled her role as a woman. Unfortunately her joy is short lived as she battles to keep her family feed with a dreamer, simple husband, a couple of second wives to contend with, limited income and constant pregnancies. Her husband is press ganged into the army to fight for Britain which adds more to Nnu Ego's problems. But as hard as she tried her results became futile being deserted by her pride and joy eldest sons who move to the US and Canada for education and fail to provide any support to her aging years.
The back drop is pre independence Nigeria with WWII in the middle of the tale. It is also the period of transiting from the patriarchal polygamous village life to the western-inspired world of capitalism, women rights and disregard for the traditional culture.
There is no confusion in the messages that this book provides.
Profile Image for Jerome Kuseh.
139 reviews15 followers
May 23, 2015
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 worth raising children who's ambition surpassed any devotion towards her.

The Joys of Motherhood is the second Buchi Emecheta book I've read, and her reputation in world literature, to me at least, is well-deserved.
Profile Image for Lucas Mota.
Author 7 books102 followers
May 14, 2019
Este livro tem sérios problemas de edição, em especial revisão. Buchi Emecheta não recebeu o tratamento que merecia nesta edição.Deixando isso de lado, é um baita livro. Uma história intensa, com cheiro de realidade apesar de se tratar de uma ficção. As reflexões e constantes injustiças abordadas são muito fortes.
Profile Image for Dyna Sow (Miss Voltan).
9 reviews8 followers
December 14, 2020
L’un des meilleurs livres de toute mon existence. Wow ! Un pur chef-d’œuvre. Une auteure incroyablement talentueuse. Une histoire bouleversante. J’en ai versé des larmes. La fin m’a achevée. Wow wow wow !
Profile Image for b ✩.
292 reviews32 followers
January 11, 2023
:((( “how uneven the whole business of living is ... ”

loved reading this and following the life of nnu ego from start to end, and the lives of her children. i loved the insertion of sociological details of a colonised nigeria as the backdrop of themes such as modernisation, tribalism and the gender dynamics between men and women.
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