My Top 5 Most Favourite Novels By an African Author

Reading is the life-blood of knowledge. When we read we learn, when we read we understand, when we read we… evolve. And naturally, as with everything else in life, reading – or the creation of materials to be read – is not limited. Pretty much every country, or custom, or religion has a certain type of literature they conceive and appreciate. Now I’m a reader. I wouldn’t go so far as to use the term ‘Avid’ with myself, but I think I do well enough for a modern day teenager. And like any other reader who reads for the sole purpose of pleasure, I’ve… read a lot of stuff [most of which I honestly regret]. And that lead me to reading African literature. Now I’m not going to go into the “pros and cons”/history of African literature because I honestly feel like you don’t care about that. So I’m simply going to move on with the listing.

PS: This is not a countdown, neither is it a list of ‘Suggested Reads’. This is simply me sharing my opinion with you and hoping you find it entertaining and, well… educating.



Title: The Trials of Brother Jero

Author: Wole Soyinka

Publication: Nigeria, 1963. But first produced in April 1960.

Synopsis: The Trials of Brother Jero is a light satiric comedy that takes aim at religious hypocrisy in the form of a charlatan, or fraud, named Brother Jero, who preaches to his followers on Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria. Jero is a master of manipulation and keeps his followers in a subservient position because he understands what they long for—money, social status, and power—and convinces them that they will soon be able to fulfill these materialistic desires. For their part, they are gullible enough to believe him. The vitality of the rogue Jero makes him a popular figure with audiences, and this rambunctious, humorous play is one of the best-known and most frequently performed of Soyinka’s early works.

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The reason why I love this book so much is because of the comedy. I mean I couldn’t help but have this stupid grin on my face while reading this [it was that good]. Although I’ll admit I didn’t quite get most of the dialogue – because of the time and place it was set in, what I did get however, ensured the book turned out to be a satisfying read.

The Trials of Brother Jero can be purchased here for about $9.00 I think.



Asare-KonaduTitle: A Woman in Her Prime

Author: Samuel Asare Konadu

Publication: Heinemann, 1967.

Plot: Compared to the brilliance and brashness of so much Nigerian literature, the quieter literature of Ghana may seem in danger of being overlooked. A Woman in Her Prime is a good example of what a mistake that would be.

Like its heroine, A Woman in Her Prime is modest, balanced, calm, and understated, but with a charm and quiet beauty that prove captivating. It centers on a domestic drama that can be stated simply: Pokuwaa would like a child, but her prayers have not been answered.

The opening chapter skillfully draws drama from this simple situation. It is the appointed day for sacrifice to the god Tano, but Pokuwaa is running late. She washes herself, rubs her skin with shea cream, and purifies herself with white clay powder, then looks for the black hen she means to sacrifice. She finds only a post in the ground and a broken string. The hen has escaped! She asks some children if they have seen it, and when one child admits to having thrown a stick at a stray black hen she sees that he is a fetish child — the product of prayers and sacrifice like the child she wants for herself. Rather than being harsh with him, she enlists him and the other children to search for her hen. They find the hen in the bushes, about to be swallowed by a snake, but Pokuwaa is just in time to pin down the snake, rescue the hen, and make her sacrifice.

In a few pages we learn a lot about Pokuwaa: about her courage and resourcefulness, her faith, the strength of her desire for a child, and the fact that she is good with children and able to gain their trust.

Pokuwaa has divorced two husbands, apparently with little fuss, when they prove unable to give her children. (Oddly, there is little suggestion than the villagers think the fault is with her.) She becomes the second wife of a kind man named Kwadwo, and in less than a month she shows signs of being pregnant. She loses the child, though, and a medicine man chides her for not making the proper sacrifice. Pokuwaa’s mother, who had pressed her to leave her second husband, seems nearly as concerned about that lack of a child than Pokuwaa herself. Kwadwo’s first wife also resents her husband’s attention to Pokuwaa. But Pokuwaa and Kwadwo have a gentle, teasing relationship, full of goodnatured humor. Pokuwaa has good friends, too, and a thriving farm. Her wish for a child doesn’t prevent her from enjoying her life.

Another small drama arises when Pokuwaa discovers a dead body in the forest. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she tells only her mother and keeps quiet as the villagers search for the missing man. Her feeling of guilt comes out in her tears at the man’s funeral, causing Kwadwo to suspect she knew the dead man better than she admits.

Perhaps because finding the body has caused her to think more deeply about life and death, or perhaps because she has simply had enough of endless rituals and sacrifice, and her mother’s nagging, Pokuwaa finally says, “I think I am going to have peace at last. I am going to give up crying inside me for that which I cannot get. I am not going to sacrifice any more.”

There are many African novels that tell of violence, betrayal, and cruel disillusionment. There are few that express the sweetness of village life. With its loving descriptions of the rituals, routines, and gossip of a small community, A Woman in Her Prime expresses how disappointment may be balanced by tenderness and peace — and how we sometimes get the thing we want only after we have stopped striving for it.

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A woman in her prime in my opinion is a beautifully-crafted work of art. To put it simply, its the best Ghanian book I’ve ever read.


Okay folks, this is where we’ll be ending the list for now. I know I said five but, well this post is getting a little bit too wordy so I’ve decided to break it in two. Never fear though, for the second installment will be coming up in a couple of days. Till then, live life to the fullest.