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Review: The Concubine by Elechi Amadi

April 1, 2011

Title: The Concubine
Author: Amadi, Elechi
Length: 216 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Heinemann African Writers Series / 1966
Source: Purchased from Book Depository.
Rating: 4/5
Why I Read It: To continue my Nigerian Friday feature, as well as the fact that I’ve heard good things about Amadi’s works.
Date Read: 24/03/11

Another great read from a classic Nigerian author. Amadi has written a number of books and plays. This is his first book which was published in 1966 before he rejoined the army during the Biafran war (actually on the Federal side, which makes me interested in his autobiography Sunset in Biafra). Afterwards he was a minister in the Rivers State Government while also writing.

The Concubine follows the story of two young villagers in Omokachi. Ihuoma is the young wife of a much praised man in the village, Emenike. The second main character is one of Emenike’s age-group friends Ekwueme. The book tells of Igbo culture and society and the struggles of these young people to do the right thing and stick to tradition.

I, as usual, did not read the blurb on the back cover until after reading the book. When I did I was rather disappointed as I felt it gives way too much away. At the same time, I don’t know that I can adequately discuss the book without also ruining the events in the first half. So I will say right now that if you haven’t read the book and dislike spoilers, please go read it before you read my review!

A few chapters in to the story Ihuoma is made a widow through the death of Emenike. It was this that the back of the book gives away. Although it happens early on, I loved the wonder of knowing what would happen. By reading the back we know that she is widowed and that Ekwuemo then pursues her. Bound by tradition and expectations, and always wanting to do the right thing and not bring shame on herself or others, Ihuoma rejects him as he had been betrothed to another young woman at birth.

The book dealt with tough subjects such as tradition, expectation, and the rules of society. It also dealt with longing and love and respect and what effect all of those can have on us if we let them. lastly, it deals with religion, divinations, and the appeasement of spirits. It was especially interesting to me to read about what was expected of the man and what was expected of the woman and where those differed. For example what might bring ridicule to a man might bring shame on the woman. It was also interesting to see whose responsibility it seemed to be in different situations to do the right thing, whatever that was.

The main thread through the story seemed to be the growth within Ihuoma and Ekwuemo and how they learn to work toward what they want and bring change to their lives. Their efforts in some ways go unnoticed and have varying results. I have to say that I found myself wanting to know more about Ihuoma through the story, wanting to know more of what was going on in her life and what her feelings were any time the story focused more on Ekwuemo. She was a strong female character.

Amadi really does a great job of showing a lot without spelling it out. He doesn’t so much expect the reader to know everything, but the traditions and ceremonies are all explained well through the narrative in such a way that the reader can understand what is happening and why, without losing the narrative thread of the story. Amadi was also great at working humour into the story masterfully.

I definitely look forward to reading more by Amadi in the future and am glad he has a list of other published works to try.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2011 8:35 am

    I like books that show instead of tell, and think that some of the issues that this book raises are very interesting and important. Though I did read the spoilers, I think that I might still like to read this book, as it deals with a place and with issues that I am not overly familiar with. Great review, Amy. I am glad that you enjoyed this book!

    • April 9, 2011 9:40 am

      I think you would like this one Zibilee and would love to hear your thoughts on it :)

  2. April 1, 2011 9:03 am

    Unlike you, I always read the back cover two or three times bef0re starting. I like to know what to expect, at least in the first few pages. It drives me nuts to start a book blind. Like getting a hard cover without the paper jacket. You don’t know what’s inside. now that I think bout it. I did read a Dell Shannon book that way and it was a treasure of a find.

  3. April 1, 2011 10:58 am

    I am glad you did like this. This is one of the books I have read a long time ago but have not reviewed it. I like the fact that you wrote about the humour in the story. thanks for this review!

  4. April 1, 2011 11:43 am

    I can’t believe you’re reading so much when you are in Goa! Have you not discovered the local feni yet?

    • April 9, 2011 9:42 am

      Heh I didn’t read much in Goa actually, I had all my posts pre-written and scheduled Niranjana :) I didn’t try the local feni either though.

  5. April 1, 2011 4:22 pm

    I get so very frustrated when blurbs and synopses give away too much of the story. I like complete and utter surprise.

  6. April 2, 2011 6:51 am

    hope hoilday going well ,this is a new name to me but seems just my sort book Amy ,great review ,all the best stu

  7. April 7, 2011 12:23 pm

    I haven’t read a single book by Amadi and yet I’m familiar with his books, especially this one. And isn’t the book cover atrocious? Anyway, you continue to delight with this Friday feature. Thanks and off to add Amadi to my list.

    • April 9, 2011 9:43 am

      Oh yes, I do hope that you give Amadi a read Kinna! And glad you are enjoying the Friday feature… I am as well :)

  8. April 17, 2011 6:09 pm

    Its all about enemike,ihuoma,madume and ekweme in a village called omokachi.enemike and ihuoma was loved by all in d village,expect madume who do envy d couple.due 2 dis madume had 2 clam enemike’s land saying is his.apart 4m dis he had begin luking 4 a way 2 fight enemike bcos he was not happy how d elders praise bcos of his understanding and also bcos he had married d girl he admired,luved and cherish.madume seized an opportunity 2 fight him,d fight was terrible 4 both of them.enemike later died of chest lock and madume died of blindness.d cos of his blindness was curse by a serpent who spit into his eyes when he was trying 2 molest d poor widow. Ekweme was a very hard working man who was loved by all especially by young girls of omokachi.find out what happened b/w ekweme and ihuoma.did ekweme later marry ihuoma,did d marriage holds,wat happended b/w dem,did ihuoma later retruned ekweme’s love back.dat wat u ve 2 find out in d novel concubine by elechi amadi.

  9. arowolo ademola abdulrasheed permalink
    June 9, 2011 1:04 pm

    please what are the elements of humours in THE CONCUBINE?

  10. Annonymous permalink
    May 31, 2012 10:50 am

    am taking literature and this book is part of the syllabus……can anyone write the characters?

  11. Henry lihanda permalink
    July 27, 2012 2:51 am

    I read the book while still in my late teens and it was wonderful. I was saddened by the death of Eminike and happy with god’s punishment to Madume. But was later scared of beautiful women when i learnt that Ihuoma belonged to a god and thus the reason for the deaths of any man who loved or wanted to love her. A BIG book this was, then.

  12. August 17, 2012 6:42 pm

    Woooow! My favourite High School Novel, was really touching

  13. omhoudu samson ABILITY permalink
    October 2, 2012 7:42 am

    Realy educating, am impressed

  14. November 29, 2012 9:40 am

    Well i don’t take it lightly when my hero in the end dies, Ekwe and i both courted Ihouma, i even stalked her and loved it when the snake blinded that ax-head Madume. The book had the sad ending i have ever had to read. Great in narrative, humour.

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