A beautiful young widow of exemplary character.
As I type this, I look towards the right-end of my laptop screen the time says 00:29 am. I am happy to write a review on this masterpiece. I really can’t explain the way I felt after reading the last page of this book that came hunting me irrepressibly. At first, I didn’t know what to expect at the end until I was wrapped in my emotions.
This novel started with the strange illness of a young vibrant man Emenike after a little combat with a fellow kinsman in the forest. This leads to his death leaving his young pretty wife Ihuoma and three kids behind.
The entire plot now focuses on the life of the young widow Ihuoma, as greatly admired and respected by the entire village. How she lived and took care of her children single-handedly. Elechi Amadi attributed her skin colour to that of an anthill (I guess that’s the origination of brown skin).
Amongst other characters is Ekwueme a young soloist and a shrewd hunter who was long betrothed to Ahruole from childhood, is attracted to Ihuoma and bent on marrying her. Ihuoma is left between acknowledging and reciprocating her feelings towards Ekwueme and denting the perception of the community towards her. But the passion between Ihuoma and Emenike is fated when Emenike’s marriage with Ahurole does not work out. Ihuoma finally admits her love for Emenike and they decide to get married. But this becomes a difficult journey when a prophecy was disclosed on Ihuoma’s unknown affiliation with a sea king which always leads to the death of any man in love with her. Therefore before any marriage ceremony takes place the sea king must be appeased. Agwoturumba the great sorcerer (dibia) from a neighboring village promises to break the connection between Ihuoma and the sea king as the only way to save Emenike’s life. Now would the spirits sit back to be appeased or act accordingly?
Reading this book took me back to the times in eastern Nigeria before the arrival of the Europeans. Elechi’s writing style is simple, very descriptive and easy to understand, I felt every character like I knew them in real life.
Another beautiful observation on this book is that Elechi Amadi presents the rural setting of a typical Igbo nuclear family and the interrelationship between in-laws. One gets to have a picture of what living together looked like during the pre-colonial times. Elechi’s The Concubine has just about similar cultural settings and values as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. There are few scenes from the novel at the beginning chapters contradicting the modern narrative of living together as husband and wife. But Elechi Amadi subtly rubs it off in foresight of our generation’s refusal on gender discrimination. This is seen when Ihuoma went to visit her parents after her husband’s demise. Her son Nwonna displayed some bad eating habits during the mealtime by talking. Nwonna gets reprimanded by his grandfather Ogbuji (Ihuoma’s dad) condemning that he was behaving like a woman for talking during meals because he is being raised currently by a woman-his mother (Ihuoma)
Okachi Ihuuoma’s mother) retorted that Ogbuji should stop referring to women as fools, as there were men who were more foolish than women.
The concubine is a novel I have known for quite a long time. Some months back I saw a tweet, I can’t recall the name of the handle, talking about compulsive African literature. ‘The Concubine’ was among the books listed and that triggered me to get a copy for myself.
Publisher: Longman Publishing Group
Date Released: 1966
With this, I’d love to read other works of Elechi Amadi
Have you read any of his works? Please share with me in the comment section.