Book Review - So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

9:43:00 AM

I totally recommend this book

So a few months ago when I gave y'all a peep into my totebag - which you can get here...I mentioned that I was reading So long a letter by Mariama Ba...this morning when rearranging my book shelf, I saw it and it hit me that I never got to do the review. I got my copy at the Lagos airport during my first visit to Nigeria last year. The book, published in 1979, is part of an African Writers Series Classics and I hope to get more from this collection. The author is (was - she passed on in 1981) from Dakar, Senegal (another one of my dream destinations in Africa alongside Timbuktu - you know how we always say 'from here to Timbuktu' and make it look like a really far away place? I just to go see if it is really far...plus I think they have loads and loads of books there) ... religion, tradition and the (non existent) roles for women are strong themes in the book.

Before reading this book, I had read up to 10 books for the first half of 2017, check them out here; Part 1  and Part 2 


As the name suggests, So Long a Letter, is all about a letter, a long letter, so long a letter. The letter is written by Ramatoulaye - wheeeew that name, am I allowed to just call her Rama? - so Rama is the main character and she writes to her sister Aissatou and we the readers are given the opportunity to read the letter, the long letter through this book...the copy I have is 91 pages long which can be done in one sitting or over the weekend but a 91 page letter is So Long a Letter. I am not complaining about it, infact I totally fell in love with this style of writing given I am all about penpals and snail mail - this is where I say Patch Adams, the real Patch Adams - some of you might know the character Robin Williams played but I am talking about the real guy, yes he is among my penpals so if snail mail is your thing, my address is 1181-00208 Ngong Hills...looking forward to your letters and postcards.

Rama opens the letter with a narration of the death of her husband and goes on to open up many deaths not just physical but culture, beliefs and practises...the best death for me is the death of her silence. Besides death, the letter which goes on to explore themes of gender (inequality) and religion; mentions how both their husbands married other women, younger women...in her case, her daughter's pal...like her daughter's very good pal who used to come to their house to chill (I know)...dont judge yet, get a copy first. As the letter comes to its end, Rama takes us through the end of the mourning period and how her husband's brother comes through to take her as a wife and she shuts him down...I totally cheered because this inheritance issue and the right not to have a say because tradition (patriarchy in another dress) had always dictated so, was dead to Rama, I also cheered because this same brother  and the imam he came with to ask for her hand was acting a fool the day everyone else but Rama knew that her husband was getting married to her daughters pal. You should have seen me reading this part of the letter and wanting to tell the person sitted next to me how disgusted I am...glad this review is giving that chance to let it out. So after the brother was shut down, an old flame of hers comes through to ask for her hand and she isn't about that life anymore... I totally loooove how she stands up to the tradition and culture and this is me trying not to give a lot away and do a much better book review than I did with Animal Farm which I bought on the same day as this book.


I totally related to Ramatoulaye and the need to stand up and speak out and not let retrogressive practises be the order of the day. We might not all be in those same shoes, I know forced, arranged and other forms of marriage ok things in the name of marriage still happen, but there also other forms of retrogressive practises that we consciously or subconsciously subscribe to that we really need to speak up and speak out about. They might not be in the big large scale of things but can be personal things, people, conversations, thoughts that you allow into your space that end up being retrogressive.  Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn't necessarily mean that's the way it ought be. Just because no one has ever openly said 'this is wrong' doesn't mean that it is right.

I would definitely definitely encourage you to read it and I am curious to know what you love, what you don't, what is sparked in you. I also want to read more from African women writers so send those recommendations my way.

Sending you all the love and light in the world as you stand up and speak out. 

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