Well, I have officially made a mess of my route around the world, but I’m trying to keep it a little sane by doing some more reading for Africa, now that I’m here. I had a great little trip to Senegal with So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. It is another 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die entry. I’m happy to have had this glimpse into women’s lives in Senegal in the mid to late 20th Century. See below for the Goodreads Summary, and then my review. I’m going to check out Senegalese cuisine online and may try to have some before I actually leave Africa. I’m headed to S. Africa now. See you again soon!
Goodreads: “This novel is a perceptive testimony to the plight of articulate women who live in social milieux dominated by attitudes and values that deny them their proper place. It is a sequence of reminiscences, some wistful, some bitter, recounted by a recently widowed Senegalese school teacher. The letter, addressed to an old friend, is a record of her emotional struggle for survival after her husband’s abrupt decision to take a second wife. Although his action is sanctioned by Islam, it is a calculated betrayal of his wife’s trust and a brutal rejection of their life together.”
I enjoyed this intimate vision of the life of a Senegalese woman told through a letter written to a friend in the aftermath of becoming widowed. The book is almost entirely about the choices women had and made as career options and social opportunities opened up for them in a modern Senegal. We see the cultural norms which affect women in polygamous marriages both when married and when widowed in this mainly Muslim society. We watch the protagonist struggle with how to be a good single parent in a modernizing nation. At times the narrative feels a bit didactic, which is perhaps not surprising given the author’s primary profession as a teacher. Overall, really enjoyed this quick visit to Senegal!