Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The First Wife by Paulina Chiziane

The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane
First published in Portuguese in Mozambique by Sao Paolo: Companhia das Letres in 2003 as Niketche: Uma Historia de Poligamia. English translation by David Brookshaw published by Archipelago Books on the 28th July 2016 with the ebook edition available from the 9th August.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2016.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this, a ground-breaking publication in the canon of non-Western women's literary history, Paulina Chiziane - the first woman from Mozambique ever to publish a novel - lifts the lid on her country's values and its hypocracies. After 20 years of marriage, Rami discovers that her husband has been living a double - or rather, a quintuple - life. After Tony is forced to marry the four other women - as well as an additional lover - according to polygamist custom, the rival lovers join together to declare their voices and demand their rights.

When I realised The First Wife was the first published novel by a Mozambican woman I was eager to read it. The book could be considered to be pretty typical women's fiction fare as it centres on Rami's efforts to keep her straying husband, Tony, by her side. However Chiziane's powerful writing and gorgeous prose lift The First Wife way above its genre and I absolutely loved reading it. The poetical sweeps of language are frequently breathtaking and Brookshaw has done a superb job of their translation. I never once felt distracted by an awkward phrase.

Chiziane shows us Mozambique life and society through the eyes of her narrator, Rami, highlighting the differences between men and women, north and south, tradition and modernity. It's for books like this that I love searching out world literature - my preconceptions about lifestyle and marriage choices have been challenged by views from a totally different culture and yet I could still strongly identify and empathise with Rami and her views on what it means to be a woman. We see, smell and taste love and betrayal, faith and hypocrisy. I would urge everyone who enjoys beautifully constructed sentences to rush out and buy this book as well as literary and women's fiction fans. The First Wife is often a far from a happy tale, but I found it an absolute joy to read.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Paulina Chiziane / Womens fiction / Books from Mozambique

No comments:

Post a comment