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The Joys of Motherhood

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  5,017 ratings  ·  401 reviews
Nnu Ego is a woman who gives all her energy, money and everything she has to raising her children - leaving her little time to make friends.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 4th 1994 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published May 17th 1979)
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Trésor Beware of the title and don't be fooled. It is a wonderful book to read and to learn a bit about among others, the encounter of 2 different worlds, we…moreBeware of the title and don't be fooled. It is a wonderful book to read and to learn a bit about among others, the encounter of 2 different worlds, western world (Lagos, capitalism, WW2, colonialism, christianism etc...) and traditional one represented by Ibuza, a local community in the Delta region of Nigeria, with its own traditions, beliefs, etc. Is there a main story? To me there are too many very important stories: patriarchy, the place of women in society, the traditional and the "modern" as in both worlds, women are still not equals to men. Colonization didn't help in her quest for freedom at all, don't mind Christianism which was an integral part of the quest to the Civilizing Mission. Do women exist only after giving birth to baby boys? Does a baby girl not as important as a boy? Is there any joy in Motherhood at all from this book? Too many questions to go by.. (less)

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Jan 12, 2015 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
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
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
Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Raul Bimenyimana
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 hesita
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Feb 21, 2012 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
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
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
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 booksh
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, african, own
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.
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.
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Laís Arjona
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own, 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 angui
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 s ...more
Jerome Kuseh
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Madeline Cruz
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
I did a Review for this book on my BookTube channel! Check it out here: Top Books of 2015(Pt. 1). ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly moving story. It follows so much of Nnu Ego’s life that now I feel like I really know her. I felt all of her joy and pain. (Although, it did also feel really long since it follows her entire life from before she was even born). This was an interesting piece of intersectional feminism; respectful of traditional culture yet also critical of it, as well as the way in which it was increasingly influenced by urbanisation and colonisation.
Leslie Reese
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-authors
Enthralling and devastating!
Rowland Pasaribu
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mina’s Musings
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this years ago as a secondary school student in Nigeria. I remember thinking how ironical the title of the book was. Did she reap the fruits of her labor?
Did she truly experience the joy of motherhood?
I think we can all agree that she experienced the unfairness of life and injustice that comes with it.
The setting of the book was not unfamiliar to me so I found myself justifying some of her actions.
The end of the book was bittersweet because her children gave her a lavish funeral but ne
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have actually read this novel about a dozen times but I am a HUGE Emecheta fan and decided to use this novel for my Non-Western Lit class this semester. I re-read it along with my students and we had some fascinating discussions on motherhood, feminism, masculinity, and Africa. If you have never picked up an Emecheta novel, this is a great one to start with!
Zachary Morgan
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Adebiyi Adedotun
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 -The me
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samuel Maina
I like that African writer Series is for a mature crowd. Believe it or not, African writers are so deep you wonder why they are so poorly rated. This is the story of Nigeria crammed into a book just over 200 pages...

Buchi has a way about writing that makes you just turn pages. Full of Nigerian culture and more specifically about the Yorubas And Ibo of Nigeria, the author gives a narrative of many themes in the day to day lives of mothers.

It is a joy to be a mother, but not when you have to share
Nicole Zelniker
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Buchi Emecheta OBE was 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 British Empire in 2005. Emechet ...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.” 21 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.” 5 likes
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