Welcome to my WordPress blog! My first post on this blog is one that I started writing weeks ago and is a book review!
‘My Father’s Wives’ is a book with a very misleading blurb. I bought the book expecting one thing and I got another. However, it is possible that I did not read the blurb entirely and what caught my eyes were the bits in bold.
‘Celebrated Angolan musician Faustino Manso has just died, leaving seven wives and eighteen children scattered across southern Africa. His youngest daughter, Laurentina, arrives in Angola from her home in Portugal to trace the story of the father she never knew.’
Okay now that I’ve read it one more time, I see that it is actually a pretty accurate description. At the risk of turning this post into one about blurbs and accuracy, I shall move on.Reading just the boldened part of the blurb was enough to make me buy the book. I bough this book because I had never read a book set in Angola or southern Africa and thus was automatically interested in it. I also bought the book assuming that the author José Eduardo Agualusa was of Angolan origin*. Finally, I was interested in the idea of a book set in several southern African countries, a sort of road trip in southern African passing through Angola, South Africa and Mozambique.
‘My Father’s Wives’ is in one word amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book especially because it kept me guessing. One habit I have fostered over the years when reading books is starting from the end; I usually turn to the end of the book just so I know how it ends. I am not someone who places emphasis on suspense and stuff like that. I really like it when I do not get what is going on at the end as this usually means the novel is going to keep me guessing what happens at every turn. ‘My Father’s Wives’ is the kind of book that leaves you guessing. The author’s style of writing is just poetic for lack of a better description (if I wanted to go on, I would say he has been inspired by his African story-telling ancestors) and you get the sense that even though the novel was translated from Portuguese, not much has been lost in translation (and this brings back the ancestors because the work just felt so authentic…can’t really explain I guess). As for the characters, they are honestly otherwordly and each and every one of them has their own backstory and mystery. I also love that the book has a bit of the supernatural in it especially with its insistence on mermaids.
‘My Father’s Wives’ is a book that I definitely recommend also because it has wholesome female characters and it happens to be the most racially diverse book I have read period. The lead character has an Indian mother and an Angolan father who has white ancestors. The book does have an emphasis on mestiso (is that how to spell it in Portuguese? I guess it means mixed raced) culture that
seems to be is present in Portuguese-colonised African countries (such as Angola and Cape Verde). I liked that the book did not limit the race of its characters to just Portuguese and African but also included Indians, Chinese, Arabs even though in passing because we know it happened even though some people prefer to accept that every non-black person hates black people and could never marry ‘one’ etc. I really loved the characters in this book, they will stay with me forever even though I found as I read that I was paying too much attention to characters that were on the sideline, especially The Dancer.
I won’t spill much more except that in the book, chapters from the story are interchanged with journal articles written by the author while he was writing the book. I found that irritating but learnt to appreciate it after a while because that way I learnt how his (the author’s) journey throughout southern Africa and how the people he had met along the way influenced his writing. This was valuable to me as a wanna-be author. Oh and another thing, if you got put up by the blurb and think this book is another one about a ‘macho’ African man who just has to sleep with several women because he cannot help himself and because he ‘is a man’, you should think again. ‘My Father’s Wives’ has a twist that I absolutely loved, the twist had me laughing away all thoughts about African men ‘being men’, they are human…
*After reading the book, I went online in search for pictures of the author and upon seeing his image I was like ‘No way he is not Angolan’. However it turns out that he is, born in Huambo.