AFRIKULT.’S OVERALL RATING:
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Set in an Islamic society in Senegal So Long a Letter recounts the intimate details of the breakdown of a marriage and the subsequent roller-coaster of emotions felt by an abandoned wife with 12 children to bring up alone. After 25 years of marriage the reason for this abrupt desertion is due to the husband’s choice to take a second, younger wife. Ramatoulaye confides her grief to her friend Aissatou in a series of letters which are markedly personal, retelling her inner most feelings and her struggle to come to terms with what her beloved husband, Modou, has done to her. The first person narrative style in which it is written allows you to fully grapple with why Ramatoulaye is found reeling after news of her husband’s second marriage. Juxtaposed to this is the action taken by her confidante Aissatou, who having gone through the same thing, radically decides to break with societal tradition. Ramatoulaye is aware and sensitive to the fact that events happening in her life are the result of a patriarchal society that consciously abuses religion to achieve its own ends. It becomes clear that her only option is to try and stay true to herself despite the injustice she goes through as a wife and a woman. In this emotive short novel Mariama Bâ comments on the unpredictable nature of marriage in a society which views this partnership as unequal, and offers some heartfelt insights into womanhood and what it means to be a ‘wife’.