Nigerian poet, Lola Shoneyin, made her fictional novel debut with the release of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, a tale exploring the secrets harboured by the four wives of Isholo Alao aka Baba Segi.
Currently living in Lagos, Shoneyin has published three collections of poetry, as well as a children’s book. She founded, and is the Director of Ake Arts and Book Festival, a yearly celebration of literature and arts in Nigeria.
Released in 2010, and longlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, The Secret Lives… is an easy to read and captivating novel. It begins with Baba Segi’s frustration with Bolanle, and what he, (a father of seven children), perceives as her inability to conceive. As the fourth and youngest wife, Bolanle is regarded as an unwelcome upheaval to the status quo, and thus isolated by the other wives. She is educated, worse still, a university graduate who doesn’t know her place, and the other wives, Iya Segi, Iya Tope and Iya Femi, are happy to school her on this.
Throughout the novel, Iya Segi alongside the other two wives, plot ways to humiliate and ultimately get rid of the new apple of their husband’s eye. As the story goes on, and Shoneyin delves deeper into each of the wives’ journeys, you see that their disdain for Bolanle is not just down to jealousy, but in fact to ensure that their secrets are never revealed.
I had been meaning to read this book for the longest of times, and I am glad I finally got around to it. Shoneyin clearly articulates the voice of each wife and Baba Segi into the novel, so the reader gets a glimpse into all of their pasts and presents. I’m not usually a fan of novels that change perspectives, however Shoneyin does this well, with this writing style adding to the flow of the book.
The writing is witty, and the plot interesting, my only critique is that the ending seemed a tiny bit flat, like the Boxing Day EastEnders episode where you expect a Big Bang, but get a single firework. That being said, I would still recommend it, as it was an enjoyable read to start 2018 with.
Buy The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives here.