Book title: The secret lives of Baba Shegi’s wives
Author: Lola Shoneyin
Date of publication: 2010
Publisher: Harper collins
“WHEN BABA SEGI AWOKE with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness”, Meet Baba Shegi
Lola Shoneyin is a poet, novelist and educator. She is popular for writing the secret lives of Baba shegi’s wives which has gained international reputation. She is the organiser of the Ake books festival and the director of bookbuzz foundation, a non-governmental organization aimed at promoting literacy by organising reading programmes for children. She was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, but spent most of her childhood at boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland. She studied English at Ogun State University and lives in Abuja, Nigeria, where she teaches English and drama at an international school. She is married to Olaokun Soyinka, the son of Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka. They have four children and four dogs.
for more information about her. She was interviewed by the Guardian newspaper last year where she gives the inspiration
behind her novel here
Baba Shegi has three wives, Iya Shegi, Iya Tope and Iya Femi. He marries a new wife, Bolanle, who, unlike the other wives, is educated, a university graduate. But in a man’s home there is only so much he can discern. Each chapter highlights a character’s narrative from Baba Shegi himself to his wives and Taju the driver. Each character tells their story, what stake they have in Baba shegi’s household and what they have done to uphold it.
A sweet woman with a heart of gold. She takes everything Iya Shegi and Femi throws at her and still remains relatively untainted. She has a sad side of her story, having been raped at age 15, she lost sight of herself and her worth. Lola shows the extent of damage that rape can incite in young children. She aborts the child and never tells her mother till later in the future. Baba shegi is her own form of salvation after Segun, the landlord’s son. We see life from a naive young woman’s perspective as she lives to please yet still holds her own.
Her personal story shows why she fights so hard against Bolanle. She is Baba Shegi’s first wife who was born to a woman who hates men. Having no father figure, she became a King-woman working hard and making a living but was distraught when her mother asked her to get married before she died. Wasn’t her mother the same woman who said men were scum? She rules the Alao home with an iron fist since she knows the strengths and weaknesses of Baba Shegi. She also portrays some hidden attraction for the female sex.
She’s the quiet agreeable wife who I believe is a moron. She was sold by her father, a farmer, to pay for his debt. She feels for Bolanle and is confused about helping her or leaving her to the clutches of the other wives. I’m of the opinion that she lacked guts despite having “won” in the end.
She is the dragon of the household but like they say, do not judge a book by its cover. Her home was taken away from her and she was sold as a house girl. She lost her sense of identity due to the maltreatment in her madam’s house but her comfort remains in the fact that she will still make a name for herself and she serves the living God. She finds her way to Baba Shegi’s house by the help of Taju his driver and has since paid back her family for selling her and taken the place as the favorite wife. Is her position threatened by the new wife Bolanle or is she just being paranoid?
Ishola Alao is the head of the Alao family. Through hard work and perseverance he escaped a life of poverty and made something for himself. He is portrayed as an illiterate who is affiliated with bowel movements, and his pride in his manhood. He is a caring father and a loving husband treating all his wives as respectfully as possible. We are in for a shock at the end of the book when Baba Shegi realises that all he has worked for is a lie.
Baba shegi’s driver, the sneaky conniving and retched man who leaves in the end before he is found out. Taju made me amused and shocked as regards his relationship with the Alaos
This book is one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. Lola shoneyin shows us the polygamous home and just how real all the brouhaha could be. I love how she tells a story of what some women and people in general face in their lives and how a person should not be judged by what they do. Baba Shegi is only human, his pride is also his downfall so is the lack of communication between him and his wives. The tragedy that happens in their home also shows that nothing good comes form evil.
Her writing seemed too formal. Baba shegi’s wives were all illiterate but Iya Shegi could use words like ingratitude. I believe that she should have written the wives parts in pidgin or at least a bit of Yoruba because the wives didn’t sound like women who didn’t go to school. I also didn’t like the titles of each chapter. They didn’t really do justice to the African story she was telling or maybe it’s because she felt the international audience needed to understand the writing but she should have given them what we have not more of what they have.
“A sense of comradeship brewed within him; it was comforting to hear that another man had been stripped of his manhood. If he could live in the knowledge that his penis would never prise apart a woman’s lips, why couldn’t Baba Segi live with his predicament? At least he could soften a woman with his hardness_ Teacher.
This was my favorite because it was the most shocking part of the book for me. It really opened my eyes to the reality that you cannot truly trust a human being.
My favorite character is Teacher for obvious reasons. He is such an easy going guy.
Feedback would be highly anticipated, would also love your book recommendations.