Sunday, 25 January 2015

Head Above Water, 1986, Buchi Emecheta ****

With this review it goes without saying that Buchi Emecheta is one of my favourite writers. As you might have observed, you would guess I have taken on a mission to peruse all of her works. Before you read Head Above Water, I sincerely recommend that you read her first novels in the following order, if possible, at a go "In The Ditch", Second-Class Citizen, The Bride Price and the Joys Of Motherhood.

Head Above Water is a non-fiction autobiography, most of her stories are, anyway. If you are used to her novels, you'll remember her father died when she was really young. As a teenager she spent most of her time (even her holidays) in boarding school. Following that, she married a man who immediately moved to the UK after leaving her pregnant twice.  She had her first two children in Nigeria before she decided to relocate to the UK to join her husband who is forever a student. Her husband did not welcome her with open arms (as she has expected) instead he abused her, left her pregnant three more times before abandoning her with a total of five children. Buchi Emecheta was only 22 years old then, if not less. She lived on social welfare, brought up her children alone, went to university and became a professional writer. All at the same time, with little or no help. In fact, she succeeded in moving herself and her children up from the bottom of the ladder.

Head Above Water is an enjoyable read, however, since it was an autobiography I felt she should have gone into details about her personal life. For instance, her relationship with her late daughter, Chiedu, and her subsequent death. She dedicated this book to her. However, she never mentioned what or how she died of. First of all, I am fully aware that "the death or loss of a child" will always be a difficult topic to expound on. In my opinion, however, I believe it is so significant it shouldn't be left out in an autobiography. Also, she stated that "The Joys of Motherhood", my favourite novel by the way, (and her best seller which earned her her fame) was written straight away after a tumultuous quarrel with her late daughter. Now, you may understand why I might be interested in circumstances surrounding her death.

Buchi Emecheta is what I would call an emotional writer. Writing to her is therapeutic especially during those difficult days. I know she has always wanted to be a writer even before she got married and started having children. However, her "In The Ditch" days (as she calls it in Head Above Water) somewhat evoked the desire and emotion to write in a kind of way that she would not have done in different circumstances. She is a survivor and my inspirational figure. An enjoyable read that I recommend.
Another writer who I consider to be my inspirational figure is Ishmael Beah author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

With this I end my reviews for the year 2014.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

2014 Book of the Year

Clikc here to read my review

Have you heard of Abdulrazak Gurnah before? Have you read any of his novels? I highly recommend By The Sea. Please, read it and let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Festus Iyayi R.I.P

Festus Iyayi author of the novel that I was reading in the pictures below passed away on the 12th of November 2013.

He was involved in a car accident with the convoy of a State Governor, Idris Wada (Kogi State, in the central region of Nigeria). Late Festus Iyayi was actually on his way to attend a meeting regarding a University strike. It is a pity he died in  such a way. First African writer to win the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best Book Overall, in 1988. 

Please click here to read my review of his novel.

I look forward to reading more of his works.

Sorry, this is coming late, I just found out.

2014 Reading Highlights

It is difficult to do my  2014 top must read simply because I only read  15 novels and among the 15 books I read, only one was 5 Stars rated.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I know, I remember my words:
"the sense of disconnectedness in Ifemelu's (interesting) blog posts was evident. I also felt that the writer (Chimamanda) was unrelenting in how she intervened in the telling of the story, I would have much more loved to reach conclusions myself. Furthermore, this novel should not have been that long, Adichie could have wanted to save her opinion in a collection of essays like Chinua Achebe did in The Education of a British-Protected Child. So said, Americanah was neither mind-blowing nor about anything in particular". 
However this novel was still a page-turner and a highly gripping read.

As a debut writer she really impressed, I highly recommend.

This novel is a good example of what it means to have a strong story to tell, narrate it engagingly with a beautiful poetical writing. It was a very well written novel in all ways.

Which will make my book of the year 2014? Please make a guess; Americanah, We Need New Names or By The Sea?

By the way, have you read the three novels? If yes, what is your opinion?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Hello ladies and gentlemen,
the year 2014 was fantastic and I am absolutley grateful, though I did not read as much as I would have loved to. Click here to find out why. I read a total of 15 books.





Please click on the links below, in order to read their reviews
  1. The Rape of Sita by Lindsey Collen (Mauritius)
  2. Houseboy by  Ferdinand Oyono (Cameroon)
  3. The Hangman's Replacement by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko (Zimbabwe)
  4. We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)
  5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian)
  6. Unwinding Thread Women in Africa  (Charlotte H. Bruner). Collection of stories
  7. By The Sea by  Abdulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania)
  8. The Consequences of Love by Sulaiman Addonia (Ethiopia)
  9. Cloth Girl by Marilyn Heward Mills (Ghana)
  10. Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye (Senegal-France)
  11. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini (Zimbabwe)
  12. Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Sudan)
  13. Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
  14. A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe (Nigerian)
  15. Head Above Water by Buchi Emecheta (Nigerian)
What about you? How was your reading in 2014? I hope it was better than mine.

Happy New Reading 2015

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Anthills of the Savannah, 1987, Chinua Achebe ****

"Anthills of The Savannah" is Chinua Achebe's sixth published work I have read so far. In my opinion, if  this prolific writer was born in a different era, he would have written differently. He did not write for the sake of writing instead he wrote because he felt the dire need to put into writing the history and need of his own people through their own eyes. The Europeans who wrote about Africans at that time simply glorified themselves. Hence, writing was his weapon to fight against all sort of oppression and repression, be it colonial or military dictatorship. As a matter of fact, most of his writings are some sort of codified messages. He always wants one to think and reflect in order to reach their own conclusion. So, he breaks it down in stories, which makes it easier to grasp. Late Chinua Achebe (to me) was a revolutionary and philanthropic writer.

"Anthills of the Savannah" is another work of his that narrates on the dictatorship and suppression of human rights of an invented state, I believe to be Nigeria. Three childhood friends that thought they were the three musketeers; Sam, Chris and Ikem. Chris left his position as the editor in chief of the national newspaper to help his friend Sam set up a government he headed following a coup d'état. Ikem the poet and the most literary of the three, took up Chris' position because he (Chris) was promoted to Commissioner for Information. As the story unfolds, Sam's power went right to his head and he became paranoid, Chris was fully aware that this political circus was not what he bargained for; nonetheless, he preferred to bask in the glow and comfort of his political position. Ikem did what he knew best,  write and give lectures in order to open the people's eyes but the people were not ready to open their eyes. Almost everyone in Kangan was corrupt to the core with a complete distortion of reality and motivated by self-interest. Here are some interesting quotes from the novel that kind of sum up what I meant.
"Agatha who was so free with leaflets dripping with the saving blood of Jesus and yet had no single drop of charity in her own anaemic blood"
"Charity, he thundered is the opium of the privileged;.....While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary".
The beginning of the novel was not an easy read, maybe a bit too political? I read and re-read just to make sure I was getting it clear. However, if you manage to go pass that, there is a whole lot of political tension, intrigue and love story to enjoy. Mind you, it is a serious adult read that was  nominated for the 1987 Man Booker Prize. I recommend to all lovers of politics, history and most importantly all lovers of Chinua Achebe's writings like me.

*His other novels I have read are Things fall apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, The Education of a British Protected Child, A Man of the People

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

VikariouzlyTME: Mary Okeke: Reader, Blogger, Traveler, Super Woma...

I am more than happy to be featured in Vikariouzly TIME, please click on the link below to read more. VikariouzlyTME: Mary Okeke: Reader, Blogger, Traveler, Super Woma...: It has been a while since I did a feature post. But today, I am delighted to do a feature post on someone I think is extraordinary. ...

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lyrics Alley, 2010, Leila Aboulela ****

Mahmoud Bey, fallen out of love with his first wife, Waheeba, brought in to his traditional Sudanese household a beautiful Egyptian woman as his second wife. Filing for divorce would have been best before marrying for the second time, however, he decided not to. Perhaps, it was because of the two sons he has with her (Waheeba)? Nassir and Nur. Though, Nassir was hopeless and Nur who was assumed would take up the family business ended up helpless.
Mahomoud Bey's brother, Idris with whom he lives and runs the family business, is widowed with three daughters. His first daughter was barely mentioned, the second daughter, Fatima, married her (hopeless) cousin Nassir, while Soraya was informally betrothed to his cousin Nur, everyone's favourite until calamity befell him.

As you can see "Lyrics Alley" narrates the story of a wealthy Sudanese family striving against all odds to live up to their reputation. Keeping up with old tradition and culture that shows little or no regard for women. Even though, their younger generation were singing a different tune.

I discovered Leila Aboulela through her short stories, she has a somewhat intimate way of narrating. I went ahead and read Minaret and really enjoyed it. I cannot say the same for Lyrics Alley. It is not a family saga, not even close to it, it is simply a very well written love story that unfolded in a family setting. Do not be deceived with the family tree at the beginning of the novel (which helped). Nonetheless, there is no dramatic metamorphosis, it is more or less a 300 pages novel. I recommend.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Boy Next Door, 2009, Irene Sabatini ****

I finished reading this novel in the month of August, I couldn't write my review then because I was engulfed by our wedding preparations.

The Boy Next Door caught my interest because it was by an African writer but most importantly because it won the Orange Prize for New Writers in 2010. Consequently, I thought it was going to be a great read. I was not wrong. After all, one of my favourite novels "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007.
Irene Sabatini debut novel is not simply about the boy next door, it is mainly about the coming of age of Lindiwe in a deteriorating  and divided Zimbabwe. Its citizens paralysed with fear and nervousness, ready to crack apart any moment soon. To make matters worse, she fell in love with a white boy (the boy next door) who was accused of murder. I crossed my fingers and wished that their love survived in their constantly disintegrating country plagued with racism and corruption. Did it? You would have to read the novel in order find out.

Irene Sabatini did a fantastic job with her debut novel. Believe it or not, writing is an art not everyone can master. So, being her first novel, she really impressed. No wonder she won the Orange Prize. Well done Irene. I took pleasure in reading "The Boy Next Door", somewhat reminded me of Americanah. I recommend. Though, bear in mind it was a long read 400+ pages.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Where is Mary Okeke?

I know.. I know...I have been missing in action for a while. I apologise for my prolonged absence. The reason, obviously was because I have not been reading that much. I have been so busy planning my (graceful) wedding that reading dropped off my radar. Believe it or not, it was incredibly time consuming, especially with a full time job and other daily activities to take care of. 
Well, the good news is, we returned from honeymoon yesterday and fortunately, I have started reading again. I promise to write you in details (with pictures) about the whole planning process, I will be doing so in a different blog called Charmingyellow since Mary Okeke Reviews is exclusively for my reading reviews. So, stay tuned for my wedding reviews in Charmingyellow and Book reviews in Mary Okeke Reviews. I look forward to hearing from you.

My kindest regards,

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Solitude Issue of Saraba Magazine

Saraba Magazine is excited to share the newest issue of the magazine published with the theme of “Solitude.” This forty-page issue includes poems by Saddiq Dzukogi, Olajide Salawu, Rasaq Gbolahan, Ajoke, Paul Njoroge, Kechi Nomu, Sihle Ntuli, Ekweremadu Uchenna, Yusuff Omoloja, Mathias Orhero and Freeman David. There are short story contributions by Efe Paul, Iquo Eke, Adebola Rayo, and Dare Falowo, as well as a nonfiction piece by Arthur Anyaduba.

From the Publishers’ Note:

“How do we contemplate solitude?

“With silence, hands cradling chin, eyes staring into space in an empty room without articles of interest, an atmosphere of quotidian existence of devotion to matters of the heart?

Find here a cache of short poems and short stories by promising writers from Africa, writing in Africa. Follow them as they grapple with different phases of solitude: from avulsion of romantic partners to a search for solitude that leads to a brief stint in a mental institution. And in your solitary experience, while you grasp at the realities of others, ask yourself what it means to be alone.”

Saraba Magazine is one of the leading literary journals in Nigeria, publishing the work of emerging writers within the country and across the African continent. Our focus is on quality writing that shows immense promise and we often publish writers in the earliest stages of their career. As increased attention is drawn towards contemporary African writing, Saraba offers its readers a unique perspective by promoting the work of writers who have been published little or not at all. The website contains a growing repository of fiction, poetry, essays and interviews by writers based in and outside Nigeria.

Founded in 2009, Saraba has published sixteen magazine issues and six poetry chapbooks. All of this can be downloaded for free on the website as PDFs.

To read the stories, poems, and essay related to the theme, please visit to download a copy of the issue.

For enquiries, please write Adaudo, Saraba’s Managing Editor at

Monday, 11 August 2014

Three Strong Women, 2012, Marie Ndiaye **

Obviously, this novel narrates the story (ordeal) of three women with immigration background in common.  The story started off with Norah. Abandoned by her father who kidnapped her little brother and made her mother go insane. Many years later after seeing her self through school with difficulty, she gave heed to her father's request to do him a favour since she was a lawyer. Seriously? After his psychological abuse and manipulation, you are going back to him? Not just that, he still makes you wet your pants in public? What is more, she is in a relationship with a man she strongly believes to be a failure. Are you kidding me? Why not just leave those that inflict suffering and pain instead of complaining all day long? Truth be told I do not find anything strong about Norah. Her actions and choices were simply annoying.
Secondly, Fanta, whom I did not get to meet, rather, I met her loser of a husband, Rudy Decas, with an itchy anus. Who would not stop blabbing about his misery. I stopped half way, could not put up with him.
Lastly, was Khady, the saddest of them all. Wretched and naive she was. Lost her husband who loved and appreciated her, moved in with her in-laws, who later on sent her away on a road journey to Europe where she let fate decide her destiny.

This novel was such an underwhelming and disappointing experience. The writing style left me unengaged, not sure who to blame, the writer? Or the translator? Since the novel was originally written in French. I was expecting a mind-blowing read and not unjustified pain and misery. Again, the title was downright misleading, though, after reading, one can easily guess that the writer was being ironic. Should I recommend? Unless you want more understanding of what I am talking about. Finally, I wonder what the standards are, by which prizes are awarded to novels.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cloth Girl, 2006, Marilyn Heward Mills ***

Cloth Girl is a novel set in Gold Coast today's Ghana, during the end of the British colony. Innocent fourteen-year-old Matilda, caught the eye of Robert Bannerman. A prestigious black lawyer from an important family, who knew that the only way he could have Matilda is making her his wife. Since he was already married, he made her his second wife by their tradition. Poor Matilda had no idea what was happening to her neither had she control over her life and somewhat lived in a state of confusion. Nevertheless, her family members were so excited to be associated with the Bannermans. They couldn't care less.
On the other side of the colony Audrey, a British lady was on the verge of madness as she discovered that the Gold Coast was not a place for her. However, she could not take her courage in both hands and leave without her husband. Fortunately, her meeting with Matilda changed the course of her destiny. In their meeting each other, Matilda also came to discover the actual meaning of love, as well as realising that she, in fact, does not feel anything for her husband. Though at that time she had already borne him five children (there around). Will she deny her fate and surrender to real love?

Cloth Girl was not a novel that swept me off my feet, I just have this feeling that something was lacking, I cannot pinpoint what exactly it was. Perhaps, the novel should have been shorter, perhaps the author should have just concentrated on the life of Matilda and her surroundings and not Audrey who was more often than not, inebriated. Perhaps... perhaps. It was an acceptable but not outstanding read, anyway. According to my fellow blogger Nana Fredua-Agyeman, he said  
"This is a book I would highly recommend to all those who love to read and all those who enjoyed Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood".
Please click here to read his review on this novel. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta is my favourite novel and in my opinion far enjoyable than Cloth Girl. Have you read both novels? What is your opinion?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

2014 Spring Read Progress (SpRP)

This year has been quite a busy one, I have not been reading as much as I would have loved to because I got my mind on other events going on in my life at the moment. I am not trying to give excuses, I wish I could help it. However, I promise to fill you in with details concerning the circumstances. Coincidentally, it happens to be that I am also reading book with almost or over five hundred pages. I just finished Cloth Girl by Marilyn Heward Mills, which took me more than two weeks to read through.
Furthermore, I did not even celebrate my second anniversary with you, 22nd of May. I  apologise. As already said, I am extremely busy at the time being. Although, no matter what the excuses, I promise to be as constant as possible.

What did I read in the Spring of 2014?



The picture above is me in Montseny a biosphere reserve on the coastal hills of my city, click here  for more info. So far this year, I have only read ten books with a total of 2711 pages. Please click here to see my Winter Read Progress.

What about you? have you read any of the novels mentioned above? Have you heard about them before? Or did you find out about them on my blog? How is your reading progress so far this year? I hope that it is better than mine. I look forward to hearing from you.

Reading must go on!

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