Our reporter Christine Duffin reviews The Girl with the Louding Voice by author Abi Dare, a 2020 coming of age novel.
This is the story of a young Nigerian girl whose life is dominated by lack of education, poverty and modern slavery.
The book is written using Adunni’s own voice in broken English, reflecting her lack of formal education, but this doesn’t mean it is difficult to follow. If anything, I found it helped to immerse me into Adunni’s life and understand Nigerian culture better.
I found this to be an uncomfortable read and definitely an emotional one. Set in Nigeria in 2014, a pre-election year and the year Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, we meet Adunni, a 14-year-old girl from a small village several hours’ drive away from the former capital city of Lagos.
Adunni lives with her father and two brothers. Her mother has died and even though she is heartbroken she puts caring for her father and younger brother before her own needs. There are flashbacks to her mother emphasising to Adunni that having an education will help save her and provide a better life than her mother’s had been.
Having already been taken out of schooling to help look after the family, she dreams of returning one day to fulfil her goal of becoming a teacher – an achievement that would give her the ability to take care of her family better.
Against her fierce wishes, she is sold as a commodity by her father as the third wife of a local taxi driver for money and livestock. Predictably the marriage doesn’t work out and she has to flee. She ends up being sold into domestic slavery in Lagos where she experiences further betrayal and terrible hardship in the household of Big Madam.
Throughout the book we meet a range of characters that influence Adunni’s life and future. The female characters are intriguing as they seem to show the different futures that Adunni could face depending on which path she takes, from the mysterious disappearance of Rebecca, to the heart-breaking story of her husband’s second wife Khaija, and the woeful marriage of Big Madam, to the guidance and support of Ms Tia – all of these women’s stories provide an insight to the lives of many girls/women in Nigeria.
The author has used these women to show that their stories are viciously determined by men and only a few manage to escape the life that’s chosen for them.
Adunni’s story is a traumatic one certainly, and highlights issues such as violence, rape and modern day slavery, but the author also provides glimmers of hope through Adunni’s fierce personality, desire for education and her determination in the face of all she has to confront to become the girl with the louding voice.
A ‘louding voice’ in the book is where education and confidence empowers young girls to share their stories/views and to be heard.
I really enjoyed this book and don’t be put off by its sometimes harrowing content. I found myself immersed in Adunni’s world, which was frightening, inspiring and hopeful all at once. Adunni could have faded into oblivion should she have stayed with her husband, forced to have children and not experience life beyond her village, but she didn’t. Instead she persevered and didn’t allow herself to be oppressed.
Adunni’s courage and joyful spirit will give you hope throughout this book and I am glad I read her story. Definitely a great read!
Grab your copy here.
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