I am thrilled to review Abi Dare’s marvelous novel, The Girl with The Louding Voice. This novel is a delightful read because of its ambitious and compassionate female characters. The story follows the trials and triumphs of Adunni, a fourteen-year-old house girl in a small village in Nigeria. Adunni dreams of becoming a school teacher, but her educational prospects are thrown into disarray when her mother dies unexpectedly. For Adunni, the loss of the family matriarch, breadwinner, and champion of her ambition brings into sharp focus the disadvantages of poor girls in a patriarchal society. Overnight, Adunni’s life is transformed by her mother’s absence and she is forced to assume all the caretaking responsibilities that once fell on her mother’s shoulders. She is to cook, clean, and bring in money for a domineering father propped up by patriarchal customs. When life in the village becomes too difficult, Adunni flees to Lagos to find domestic work. However, Lagos’ opulent mansions also hold their own threats and exploitations for a vulnerable young girl.
Abi Daré does an amazing job exploring the various ways girls and women are mistreated in Nigeria society. This mistreatment comes from patriarchal attitudes about a girl’s role in the family. Girls and women are expected to bear children, financially support the household, and also maintain a pristine home. Despite these challenges, Daré gives her characters depth and breadth. There is a sense of agency and joy imbued in Adunni. Adunni is witty and curious; she finds ways to speak up, which endears her to people in the community. Daré deserves much praise for telling this complex story where the girl child disproportionately carries society’s burdens. Adunni is a character that stays with you long after the last page has been turned because she has the clarity and fortitude to pursue her dreams. I highly recommend The Girl With The Louding Voice.