Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Bride Price - Buchi Emecheta

The Bride Price is the poignant love story of Aku-nna, a young Igbo (south eastern Nigeria) girl, and Chike, the son of a prosperous former slave. They are drawn together despite the obstacles standing between them and their happiness, defying even the traditions of tribal life. 

Finally, I get round to writing about this book. It's 06:13 in the morning and this little corner of the world is still sleeping... the perfect (much needed) quiet time to write about a book.

So, this book, first published in 1976, is the very first book that Buchi Emecheta wrote. After first being introduced to her work in the form of her novel 'The Joys of Motherhood' which I read a couple of months ago, I had high hopes for her other novels. I can gladly say that I was not disappointed. As much as I felt that 'The Joys of Motherhood' was a more compelling read, 'The Bride Price' was also very enjoyable, and most importantly for me, taught me a vast array of things about another culture and way of life - this time, Igbo culture.

I don't like to give spoilers as I think that there is something magical about allowing a story to unfold as you read it... to discover the story and the characters organically... So, I will not 'talk' to much about the plot itself.

Ok, so the story centres around a young Igbo girl called Akunna, meaning: 'a father's wealth' in the Igbo language of south eastern Nigeria. In what appears to be typical Buchi Emecheta fashion, the story kind of grips you from the beginning. As with her other work, the story starts with something out of the ordinary having occurred, something that is not revealed straight away, and you get sucked into the story from the beginning trying to work out what has happened/is happening.

Aku-nna fitted the key into the keyhole, turned it this way and that, pushed open the whitewashed door, then stood there, very still. For right there in the middle of the room was their father, staring back at them, wordlessly. He stood there, hat in hand, properly khakied in his work clothes and looking very much like a guilty criminal caught stealing.

The story takes Aku-nna and her younger brother Nna-nndo from Lagos to the Igbo village of Ibuza. There they are forced to forget their Lagos/city lifestyle and quickly learn to live the village life, including all of it's archaic customs and traditions.

Along the lines, the quiet and peaceful Aku-nna befriends the village teacher, Chike, who she soon forms a relationship with. However, due to the fact that Chike is an 'osu' (descended from a slave caste) she is forbidden from having a relationship with him. Although they manage to overcome this challenge and love eventually prevails, the story ultimately takes a sad and tragic turn.

I hope that I have not given too much away....

I loved this story. Then again, I think I am slightly biased because I really love Buchi Emecheta's writing style, tone and generally the subject matter that she chooses to write about. However, that said, I think that most people would enjoy this story. It's a story about loss; coming of age; forbidden love; discrimination; standing up for what you believe in when faced with adversity, and much more. It also teaches about culture.

Again I learned so much from reading this book. What stood out most for me and lead me to further research was the concept of the osu caste system. It turns out that they are not fictional people at all and that this extremely marginalised group of people actually do exist in Nigeria and continue to be discriminated against. The black-on-black discrimination is real people! They are considered to be the 'untouchables'.... as in outcasts... and even the BBC has a write-up about them - see HERE

The belief is that any 'free born' that marries an osu defiles the family. This usually leads to investigations by elders before any marriage is contracted between two families, especially when from different communities. Wow!

Many so called osu, and non-osu people have called for this dehumanising caste system to be abolished.... The catholic church even got involved - see HERE.

It looks like huge strides have been taken in order to do so, as a number of Igbo states have now outlawed it's practice. Yay! Check out this recent report Death Sentence for the Ancient Igbo Caste System In Igboland, published in July this year. To find out more about the Osu Caste System, just do a Google search. There's a ton of info out there.

My only criticism about this book would be that, again I find that Buchi does not waste time with her stories... and sometimes it feels like the story just jumps! For instance the relationship between Aku-nna and Chike seemed to just happen all of a sudden. I would have liked to have seen the relationship as it developed a bit more. 

Okay that's it for today. If  you get a chance to read the book, please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment a below. 

If you would like to borrow the book from the BC Library, or just meetup in order to discuss this or any other book (and related topics), why not join my (book) social club - see HERE.

If you want to buy the book click on the image below.

Thanks for reading.

Much love


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