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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.
To the dismay of her ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich, rotund patriarch, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore a great prize, but even graduates must produce children and her husband’s persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be.
She only wants to escape to a quiet life, but the others disapprove of the newest, youngest, cleverest addition to the family. Treated with respect by her husband, she is viewed with suspicion by her seniors – who fear she may unlock their well-guarded secret.
Through the voices of Baba Segi and his four wives, Lola Shoneyin weaves a vibrant story of love, secrets and a family like every other – happy and unhappy, truthful and not, sometimes kind, sometimes competitive, always bound by blood, and the past.
A Rabelaisian picture of polygamous marriage,comically capturing the physical realities of ordinary Nigerian life. (Giles Foden 2010-04-01)
A funny and moving story told with love and compassion … a jewel of a novel (Petina Gappah)
Riotous… this debut novel is a real eye-opener: a deft, compelling and unsettling tale. (Ailin Quinlan Irish Examiner 2010-05-10)
This deft, lightly spun story packs quite a punch. Shoneyin’s unravelling of a family is rooted in and flavoured by Nigeria, but speaks more widely. It is a book you’ll want to eat in a sitting – and then start again (Diran Adebayo)
This first novel is a compelling, unsettling tale of a polygamous household and the women within Baba Segi’s walls. Shoneyin’s sharply written portrait of a family and a nation gripped by the past, yet surging into modernity, manages to be funny, disconcerting and violent all at once. An utterly gripping read. (Patricia Duncker)
A rich debut… an engrossing and beautifully written domestic tale of polygamy and rivalry set in her native Nigeria. (Harper’s Bazaar 2010-03-01)
Riveting… a truly compelling tale… (Davina Morris The Voice 2010-04-05)
An engrossing portrayal of a polygamous household… a rich portrait of a family on the verge of collapse. (Yasmin Sulaiman The List 2010-04-01)
An insightful and compelling tale set within a polygamous household (Pride 2011-01-01)
A novel of clamorous intensity. With such Chaucerian tumult, one expects comedy and there is certainly some humour here, but much pain too… Shoneyin’s language is that of a poet, both extravagant and exact… Well-structured and with a gratifying resolution. (Jane Housham Guardian 2011-01-15)
‘A rich debut… an engrossing and beautifully written domestic tale of polygamy and rivalry’ Harpers Bazaar