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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  6,987 ratings  ·  1,046 reviews
African-born poet Lola Shoneyin makes her fiction debut with The Secret Lives of Babi Segi’s Wives, a perceptive, entertaining, and eye-opening novel of polygamy in modern-day Nigeria. The struggles, rivalries, intricate family politics, and the interplay of personalities and relationships within the complex private world of a polygamous union come to life in The Secret Li ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published June 29th 2010 by William Morrow
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JaeRavenClaw Depending on culture and religion, yes. As Secret Lives is set in Nigerian culture, it is not uncommon for a husband to have more than one wife.

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Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those novels that takes the well trodden (but almost always readable) path of the African women's novel and turns it on it's head. I burned through novels by Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa because of their raw unapologetic honesty in portraying the lives of Nigerian women. Still, after reading six or seven in a row, I'd find myself just fuming with anger and need for justice. Their books weren't about meting out justice or even a bit of rebellion. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baba Segi is a patriarch, comfortably off but not rich, unsophisticated and boorish but not brutal, sexist but not misogynistic. In return for a home, financial support, and the dubious privilege of sharing their beds with him on allotted nights, the "four wives" of Baba Segi cook, clean up after and pamper him, massaging his ego. Iya Segi, Iya Tope and Iya Femi look after their children, while the newest wife, graduate Bolanle, anxiously waits to fall pregnant, since it's taken for granted by a ...more
Susie Gaines
May 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book blew me away. I never thought I'd be interested in a book about Africa; it's usually not my thing. The novel had me hooked after the first page. The language is mesmerising and it was refreshing to read what English sounds like when it has an African feel.

The novel is about a polygamous family that is about to implode but doesn't know it. The newest wife fails to conceive and after two years, the patriarch, Baba Segi, takes her (Bolanle) to a hospital. This is where everything starts
Brown Girl Reading
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm so glad I picked up this book, which I found researching books left and right. When I saw that it was a book on polygamy frankly I had no idea what to expect. My first thought was maybe something cliché. What I got was something much more interesting. It was a story I had a lot of trouble putting down although I was forced to because of work. Shoneyin who is more known for her poetry has debuted with a book which analyses polygamy, African tradition, and relationships between men and women w ...more
Nigerian author, Lola Shoneyin brought a tender tale of compassion and love to the table with this book.

Baba Segi was a good man. A bit unrefined, and uneducated, but his heart was as big as a baobab tree, and the fruits of his devotion as prolific as a mango tree's. Sweet and irresistible.

It was his fourth wife, Bolanli, the graduate, who would spin his world in reverse when she failed to conceive a child. Was it not for Teacher, who encouraged him to take her to a real doctor, instead of his
Leslie Reese
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-authors
“From my bedroom I heard my mother sobbing, which was strange because the prospect of death did not usually upset her. She said she wanted to go to heaven and kill my father all over again. She was desperate for me to be married.”

Nigerian Baba Segi is the hardworking, uneducated husband to three wives: Iya Segi, Iya Tope, and Iya Femi; and father to their seven children. Their lives take place in Ayikara as the 20th century is drawing to a close. When Baba Segi takes a fourth wife, Bolanle, laye
Men are so simple. They will believe everything.

I took my time to read this book but I am so happy I finally got around to reading The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives . I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was well written, paced perfectly and very addictive reading.

Baba Segi is married to three women, the story opens when he carries home his fourth wife Bolanle who is educated and not generally the type of woman who would marry Baba Segi. With the fourth wife joining the household, her rece
Raul Bimenyimana
Read in one sitting, this is a fast-paced and very entertaining book. Bolanle, the fourth wife of a traditional polygamist patriarch, is the protagonist of this tale and it is her arrival, and its implications, into Baba Segi's household that sets the story moving. The writer shifts from the protagonist's narration to the other characters' to the third person quite seamlessly and the drama and humour in this book, expertly written.

If I haven't discussed enough about the plot, it is because the m
Me at 11%- "This had better end with them killing Baba segi and taking all his wealth for themselves"

It doesn't. Dnf at pg. 100
WILD...yes that's exactly how I need to start this review. I don't know if I've quite read anything like this book before

The Secret Lives of the Four Wives is fascinating in more ways than one. I'm treading very carefully in how I talk about this book because knowing as little as possible is probably the thrill of it all. Baba Segi is a polygamist with four wives. In the beginning, I was disgusted with him. He had some interesting and honestly tactless views of women and marriage. In fact, I was
Christine Zibas
Apr 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a Western woman who believes in monogamy, I wasn’t sure this tale of Nigerian women in a polygamous marriage would have anything to say to me. Still, once I read the first paragraph, it was nearly impossible to put the tale of “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” down. Truly, author Lola Shoneyin has not just given us a glimpse inside the family life of Baba Segi and his four wives, but also a universal tale of secrets, compromises, and human interactions.

The story centers on the dynamic o
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Secret Lives of Baba Seji’s Wives was just what I needed. Lola Shoneyin tells the satisfying story of one flatulent man, his four wives, and the secret that three share and one is stumbling towards revealing. I was here for the soap opera drama and humour, which this book had in spades, but even more, i loved how the story circled back to the stories of each wife, and the hard choices that each made to land in this marriage. I appreciated the diversity of backgrounds that still left these wo ...more
The narration of this novel shifts from third person point of view to the first person point of view of Bolanle to the first person point of view of Iya Tope to third person to first person. Sound confusing? It was. Other than marriage, there really wasn’t much stringing these characters and their narratives together. The voices and characters of Baba Segi and the first three wives left much to be desired. Part of my frustration with the narration stemmed from the fact that their was nothing to ...more
Tara Chevrestt
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Throughout the first quarter of this novel, I found myself laughing my butt off. Baba Segi is one of the most ignorant men to walk the face of this earth (in fiction anyway.) Sure, men see him as successful because after all, he is able to afford four wives and 7 children and four comfortable armchairs, but this man is not only terribly stupid at times but he also vomits on himself when he gets upset and um, at one point, he poops his pants.

So... by the time I got to the part where the polygami
Henry Ozogula
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Lola Shoneyin's book is one of the most successful and most widely read, received in African literary history (never mind African women's literature). This of course indicates that this work is also widely read in the western world. Indeed some observers sneer at facts like this, claiming that such an author is only largely read by "detached whites' overseas", but this is absurd, as tens of thousands of perceptive African readers abound all over the western world anyway.

Shoneyin is a superb wri
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Set in Nigeria, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin tells the story of Baba Segi, a proud, affluent, corpulent, and flatulent man with four wives and seven children. Baba Segi’s fourth wife, Bolanle, is the youngest of his wives and the only one among them who is literate and a university graduate. Bolanle’s failure to conceive prompts Baba Segi to take her to the doctor, a visit which leads to unintended consequences. Baba Segi’s world is shattered when he learns the secrets ...more
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
This is the first novel by Lola Shoneyin .I was interested in reading this book because the author has published poetry in the past and in my experience this actually prepares writers for telling their stories in a succient manner, and her father-in-law is Wole Soyinka, so I figured she has access to good literary resources to make sure that she wrote a worthy book. But, I did think that initial storyline sounded a little predictable - a man who has three wives takes an educated fourth wife that ...more
Read By RodKelly
This is a wonderful novel filled with strong, well-developed characters. The prose is so sharp and energized, and the plot is straightforward and tightly constructed.
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
reading this book was like listening to my father tells anecdotes about growing up in elemosho compound. this novel (as well as my dad’s stories) has that "we walked barefoot up a hill six miles in snow every day to get to school after feeding the cows, drawing water from the well, and chopping a ton of wood" tone; but, it is decidedly nigerian. the story was elegant. the purpose driven lives, greed, kinship, jealousy, boldness, malice, naiveté, fear, hypocrisy, and religiosity magnify the symbi ...more
Samir Rawas Sarayji
A compelling look at the lives of four women married to the same man and living under one roof. Indeed, the power of the story is about the 'secrets' of these wives, namely their individual pasts, and on how these secrets will unravel to devastating effects. There's a lot to like in this fast novel, from cultural exposition to good writing, Shoneyin is a writer I would like to read more of.

What I didn't like were the different narrators of each chapter with either first person POV or third pers
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
Thanks to William Morrow for a copy!

Poor Baba Segi. I always feel sorry for men who have to handle alot of women in their lives and he's no exception. The women aren't portrayed as warm, loving, caring people. Baba=father. His fourth wife is someone who went to college, and just like Barb in Big Love, you wonder why an educated woman would agree to that. She actually (unknowingly) undoes the secrets of the other wives, yet it's because they don't trust her that she undoes them. Unusual setting,
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a fantastic storyteller!
Title: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Author: Lola Shoneyin
Rating: 5
The first time I read this book was for a Literature class in 200 Level. While I remember it being a very good book, I must have breezed through it because a lot of things about this book flew over my head, and I’m glad I reread it because I now see it in a clear and beautiful new light. This book has so much depth and beauty, and everyone definitely needs to read it. I buddyread it with @itan.ile on Instagram, and I rea
K.J. Charles
I somehow had the idea this was basically going to be comic or at least triumph-of-human-spirit in some way. It was not. JFC that was a savage book.

It isn't because of Baba Segi either. He's a gross and grossly sexist polygamist, squatting in his position of patriarchal privilege without question, but in fact he's harmed by the cultural milieu like everyone else, and in a weird way his house is a haven for the four horrendously abused (sexually, physically or emotionally) women he marries. He l
This book was just fun. Polygamy is not really my thing, but Shoneyin does a great job representing the ways in which the subservient women hold and display power both among themselves and to their husband. For the most part it was funny, but ultimately things got serious: death, rape and betrayal. In the end it was not really a positive picture for the women.

I liked the switch in point of view. The first few chapters are third person and give the reader an overall sense of the family. Then Shon
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this! It's been on my TBR list for years. Although this novel is imperfect (there were some scenes and dialogue that I couldn't connect with), I found it to be a refreshing read. ...more
This is the kind of a book that I have always dreaded. They are to a large extent a true depiction, and many truths hurt. This book is about the household of Baba Segi (father of Segi, his first born) and his household consisting of his four wives and their children. The fourth wife is, as it would seem to the household, an unnecessary novelty - a graduate( :O ). Educated and independent and young. How will that determine the future of the household? The book was marketed with and indeed has a s ...more
Nwabisa Mbisholo
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Because the book was written from multiple perspectives, it was a bit difficult to follow and understand at times but it made up for that by having an interesing and compelling plot. Lola Shoneyin managed to tell a story about women who are disenfranchised without making them complete victims and that's something I haven't seen in a while. The fact that these women were under Baba Segi's rule ( in a clearly patriachal society) but managed to conceal a secret that in and of itself is supposed to ...more
Friederike Knabe
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ishola Alao, known as Baba Segi, has a problem that upsets his stomach and general well-being. After two years of trying, his fourth wife still does not show any signs of being pregnant. He already has a stable of kids with his other wives, but what is the use of another marriage if it doesn't give him more offspring? Furthermore, his young wife, "the graduate", has been creating unease and tension between his other wives. It is really beyond him to understand what the reason could be, given tha ...more
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
I was given an ARC of this novel by the publisher, William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives takes place in present day Nigeria and tells the story of Baba Segi and his four wives and seven children. Much of the novel is narrated by Bolanle, the last wife. Her entrance into the family causes turmoil above and beyond the usual upheaval that occurs when a new wife is taken, as it exposes a secret that will change the family forever.

While the novel is set in
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