So Long a Letter

Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Translated by Modupe Bode-Thomas. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.

Reason read: June is considered a wedding month. Read in honor of marriages of all kinds.

What does it mean to be a Senegalese woman living in a society dominated by male attitudes? Where does self worth and fulfillment fit in? Just because a society condones polygamy doesn’t mean every individual expects it, embraces it, or even wants to practice it. When Ramatoulaye’s husband of thirty plus years takes a new (much younger) wife  her emotions run the gamut. Baffled (Wasn’t she a good wife?). Stunned (They have twelve children together. Wasn’t she a good mother?). Embarrassed (What will the community think of her being replaced?). Insecure (Exactly what is her place in society now?). When Madou leaves her a widow, in a long letter to her friend Aissatou, Ramatoulaye recounts her life with Madou. She is, at times, reminiscent and even wistful for a life gone by. In the end, it is a new tragedy that sets Ramatoulaye on a new path of acceptance.

Lines that stayed with me, “My loins beat to the rhythm of childbirth” (p 2), “To warp a soul is an much a sacrilege as murder” (p 23), and “To overcome distress when it sits upon you demands strong will” (p 43).

Author fact: So Long a Letter was Mariama Ba’s first novel. It goes without saying it is semi-autobiographical.

Book trivia: So Long a Letter was the first African novel to win the Noma Award in 1980.

Nancy said: Not much. Pearl just describes the plot in one sentence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the early chapter called “African Literature in English” (p 16).



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