Linda's Reviews > Scarlet Song

Scarlet Song by Mariama Bâ
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's review
Sep 26, 2011

it was amazing
Read from September 26 to November 05, 2011

Given that Mariam Ba wrote this book as she was dying, I wonder if that is why she managed to put in so much of how she saw her world? The African world. And this she did brilliantly; she showed, did not tell. She expertly wove in the many layers of life as an African in the modern world, exploring many themes without losing the unity of the story.

If I rated the book initially, in the first third or so, I'd have given it a 3. I got more into it as I read on, and by the time I was done it was a 5.

Very vividly written, the story explores various themes. Inter-racial marriages. Racism. Counter-racism. African culture. Can I be a prisoner of my values, can I be blind to this prison? Identity. What is it? What makes me who I am? Can I lose my identity by making choices that go against the pre-set mould of culture and family? What do I choose to fight to the death for? Is my identity in my mind, a thing created, or an idea I buy into? Expectations in marriage of husbands and wives. Can a marriage with only one side making sacrifices work? Must both sides make sacrifices for any union to work? Cultural differences. Do we hold on to bits of culture that work for our selfish interest? Pride. Love. How important are appearances for society? Does giving the 'right' impression make for happiness? All this in such a small book.

Being an African living a 'western' life in Africa the story resonated with me several times, even if not out of my personal experience, out of observation.

And as a lover of words I absolutely loved the language and the expressions. So real. So apt in places. Managing to convey the conflicts we have in our minds and how we justify our choices. I wondered what it must be to read this book in the original French, given how well it comes out in English.

This was time well-spent.
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03/16 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Corvinus Maximilus I can't wait to see your review.

Corvinus Maximilus I was sure you would love it.

Linda I felt a sense of loss, though, at the ending. Even though it ends like African stories tend to end - not everything tied up neatly together - I felt like I needed to know more. What happened to Mireille? Did she have any regrets? But even more curious...Ousmane...did he regret his actions? What did he learn about life and about his actions if any? What was Yaye Khady's reaction? Did she think - I was right, he should never have married her, or did she feel any kind of remorse for her hand in the matter?

Linda It is such a deep book. And Yaye Khady and other mothers-in-law, they upheld the tradition purely for their own selfish ends. A daughter-in-law whose job it will be to slave away and allow you to put your feet up and look beautiful and raise your status in society? At no point did the happiness or love of the son feature anywhere, not even remotely. It might as well have been the mother-in-law getting a wife, only without the responsibility for one.

Laura I like your review of this book, and I wonder what you thought of Mireille at the end. I felt like she pulled an Anna Karenina mixed with a Medea, and I was disappointed. It felt like a throwaway ending. I also felt like Mireille would not have acted like that. It felt out of her character. What do you think?

Linda Laura, I agree with you. Mireille's action is part of the reason for the sense of loss. Given all she had withstood, the action was incongruent with who she had been all along. Maybe she got to breaking point? A low mental state, perhaps?

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