So Long a Letter (African Writers) Paperback – 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
This novel is written in the form of a long letter by Ramatoulaye, a Senegalese widow, to her friend Aissatou. Ramatoulaye discusses the lives, marriages and families of both women, and reflects on their friendship. As she writes, the story of her life is fleshed out.
Ba has created a fascinating look at postcolonial life in the former French West Africa. This portrait is decidedly from a woman's perspective and is focused on issues that particularly impact women's lives. Ba explores a multigenerational web that links women and men together.
Ba's subject matter includes motherhood, marriage, religion, education, and politics. Particularly fascinating are her explorations of the role of the "griot" (described in the book's endnotes as "part-poet, part-musician, part-sorcerer") and the practice of cowrie shell divination. A key element in the book is polygamy as practiced in the Muslim African world.
The book deals much with women's relationships--with husbands, with children, with adult female relatives, and with friends. The book is about surviving loss and disappointment; it's also about hope and personal growth...
i am not saying that this book is slow-- indeed, it reads quickly and once one sees how beautiful the words are, it's impossible to put the book down until one finishes it a few hours later. but the _beauty_ of the book is a slow one, the slowness of a hot place, of round fruit, of social change, of reflection--
Middle aged Senegalese school teacher, Ramatoulaye, who is an educated Muslim woman, a mother, an abandoned wife, and now a widow adjusts to her changing roles with strength but sadness.
She writes a letter to her long time friend, Aissatou, whose husband also chose to take a second wife years before; Aissatou now lives abroad as a single woman. As Ramatoulaye says to her friend by way of introduction, "Our long association has taught me that confiding in other allays pain."
And so Ramatoulaye begins her story. In the pages that follow, little by little, Ramatoulaye takes us into her world, her culture, her past. Ba shows the reader how although a woman's experiences and opportunities might have changed somewhat in the 20th century, it becomes clear how the hopes and dreams and disappointments of Ramatoulaye's mother's mother, her mother, and Ramatoulaye, herself, all tie into each other.
We learn about Ramatoulaye's deep pain when after decades of matrimony and friendship with her husband Modou suddenly grind to a halt as Ramatoulaye's husband reveals an affair with one of their daughter's classmates to leave the house to start a new family.
Ba's skill as a writer and as an advocate for the woman's voice, lies not in preaching or didactical posturing, but instead by a subtle demonstration of what actually happened.
She invites the reader to see the different sides and roles people play in Ramatoulaye's life and does not make it a black/white issue.
However, this work will definitely appeal to women who are interested in learning about a feminist/womanist perspective on other cultures as well as women who are well versed in West African culture.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
In "So Long a Letter" one gets the deep feelings of an African woman, a middle aged Senegalese school teacher called Ramatoulaye. Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2005 by Edwin
I am a Nigerian American residing in the bay area. In high school, (Obot Idim), I was opportuned to read the novel, "So Long a letter" and was quite reluctant to part... Read morePublished on May 18 2004 by Akanimo
A short and easy read that is incredibly insightful into the psyche of the protagonist. Displays well the troubles of women not only in her position but women in general. Read morePublished on April 14 2003 by Brandy Somers
Senegalese writer Mariama Ba gives insight and commentary on the lives of two female friends in Senegal who take different paths in life when their husbands decide to take another... Read morePublished on Oct. 14 2001
I found it really difficult to get through this book. The translation was dull as I found the French version to be a bit better. Read morePublished on June 23 2000 by S. Shewmake
This was a wonderful, short, but beautiful book on the life of an Islamic woman who was a co-wife. It shows what many women have to deal with and the sexism that they may... Read morePublished on April 6 2000 by Lainey
"So Long a Letter" reviels the feeling of an African woman which usualy remains a tabu.I believe that all Africans ,men and women,should get the chance to read this book. Read morePublished on Jan. 4 2000 by Saba Gebrehiwot
Mariama Ba was absolutely magnificent in this book. The manner of poetic prose she adopts is not only touching but also addictive. I first read this book in High School in Kenya. Read morePublished on June 12 1999
fabulous book, not only beautifully written but also helps to see Islamic women in a new light...Published on March 17 1999 by Keridwyn (firstname.lastname@example.org)