Abi Daré’s novel The Girl with the Louding Voice begins with dramatic scenes: The 14-year-old protagonist Adunni’s mother dies and her father decides to marry her off in order to escape his financial troubles with the bride price. This made me expect the worst, but fortunately the book turned out to be one that, in addition to forced marriages of Nigerian minors in rural areas, poverty, lack of education and male dominance, also depicted wonderful, supportive relationships and a protagonist who fights for her own voice in a distinctive way.
In the beginning, Adunni is actually married to an older man whose first two wives were unable to give him a son – the much longed-for heir. The novel portrays it as completely normal that in rural Nigeria women have not much of a say, are raped in their marriages, and sons are worth more than daughters. Adunni’s narrative voice exposes the injustices and she manages to escape to Lagos and find employment as a housemaid. She continues to be exploited and mistreated, but she finds two allies in Kofi, a cook, and Tia, a wealthy, educated woman who works in the sustainability industry and moves in the same social circles as Adunni’s boss’s. Adunni’s survival and resistance is based in her firm belief in education as a way out of oppression, education as a means to fight back.
In the novel, contrasting worlds collide, illuminating the most diverse sides of Nigerian society. Abi Daré has written a stirring debut novel that celebrates the courage of a young girl and seems to encourage readers to speak up in the face of injustice.
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