Happy somewhat belated New Year. I haven’t found time to post yet, but I’ve been enjoying my reading so far this year. Completely unrelated to my book-from-every-country project, I read Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. It’s a classic novel that, as a scientist, I particularly enjoyed since it tells the story of a microbiologist and his research. Obviously it has a lot of appeal to non-scientists too, since it was awarded the Pulizter Prize (which Sinclair Lewis declined).
The first book I read in 2015 was one for the book-from-every-country project and one I’ve been looking forward to reading for a long time- Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo. I read a lot of it on a long plane trip on January 1st. It worked well as plane reading (at least according to my tastes for plane reading)- easy to follow even with the inevitable interruptions and at the same time not the least bit fluffy.
I found the similarities between Changes and So Long a Letter, the book from Senegal I recently read, remarkable. Both feature a friendship between two educated women who are struggling to balance work and family. I like Changes better, I think because their friendship was written in the form of a lively dialogue rather than a long letter from one to the other. (Although I generally really enjoy epistolary books.) The friendship between Esi and Opokuya really came alive (in fact, I found myself wondering whether their friendship was really the “love story”” referred to in the title). I love stories with good friendships, so I was completely sold.
As with So Long a Letter, the role of the tradition of polygamous marriage was an important component of Changes. The take here was a bit different though. Polygamy itself was presented as not necessarily a bad thing. In fact maybe it could be the solution for a woman busy with her career who wanted a husband who demanded less of her time? Instead the book seems to argue that polygamy was okay in the past, but that it should be discarded because it doesn’t work in today’s world.
One interesting little detail that the book mentioned was that teacher’s colleges in Ghana were deliberately place in locations where they would draw equally from several ethnic groups within the country. I thought that was a very smart strategy for trying to promote interaction and acceptance between groups. Of course, the next sentence points out that the students still interacted largely within their own groups, but even so I like to think that the students would still have benefited from taking classes together.
The book also had fun with Ghanaian’s use of the English language. Apparently there is a tendency to create unique words, which I think is just how language should be.