Email this review


Two stories of village life from the Nigerian novelist now living in London. The Moonlight Bride gives twelve-year-old Ngbeke's view of secret preparations for a village wedding. Ngbeke and her friend Ogoli get wind of the coming wedding, venture to the forbidden banana grove for clay to make their gift, then are shamed before the village when a giant snake sends them running out screaming. But their screams alert the men to a python's presence, the young men kill the dangerous snake and make a mat for the bride from its skin, and the shame turns to pride. Speculations about the identity of the groom and the imported bride continue, and there is uncertainty about the bride's family's consent when the groom turns out to be ugly, lazy Chiyei, who has already had a few wives who ran away--but all ends well and his new albino bride manages to reform him a bit. What's more, she ""had the best sense of humor in all our umunna, and she taught us it matters little the color or superficial beauty of any person, the most important thing is the beauty of the heart."" The second, stronger story, centering on teenage Okei whose parents have been killed, concerns the tensions between two villages, between the generations and sexes, and between the boys who have been to school and those who help their fathers on the farm and do things the ""old-fashioned"" way. Because of rumors that the boys are acting up, the elders of both villages conspire to keep them busy by riling them still further. The plot is furthered unwittingly by the gossipping girls of both villages; and because of all the rumors, one of the elders cuts his own daughter's ear off in the night, thinking she is Okei come to burgle their home. The tensions culminate in a wrestling match between the boys of the two villages. Okei and his friends intend a friendly day of sport but, to the elders' satisfaction, it ends in a free-for-all. . . which, the men maintain, should teach the boys that ""in a good war, nobody wins."" The first story is a little slack, but likable; the second has a character-based plot of sufficient comic complexity to make an entertaining classroom readaloud, or dramatization. Both are interesting not only for their inside view of the culture but also for their kids'-eye view of the rules, conventions, and status of the aged--which are accepted overall but not taken over-seriously. The old women's stories are considered boring and rambling, not the usual view we get of African storytelling sessions; the wisdom of the elders is not without its bumbling manifestations; and affectionate fun is poked at all elements.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1982
ISBN: 8076-1062-3
Publisher: Braziller