A heartwarming, enlightening novel that won the 2018 Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts, The Girl With the Louding Voice examines the plight of underage girls in Nigeria, robbed of an education by early marriage.
On her deathbed, Adunni’s mother makes her father promise to continue 14-year-old Adunni’s schooling. Adunni’s mother was the breadwinner for the family, so with bills piling high, Adunni’s father quickly forgets his promise, instead viewing his young daughter as a strategic escape from his financial woes. To receive money in the form of a dowry, he marries off Adunni to the brutal, elderly Morufu as his third wife. The flame in Adunni’s heart to continue her education—now only a flicker—lives on, even after landing in Lagos and working as a domestic worker for a cruel, abusive family.
Abi Daré’s skillful examination of the causes and effects of corruption, child labor and child marriage forms the foundation of the novel. Child labor and marriage are driven by poverty, misinformation and outdated beliefs, as when Adunni’s father fails to educate her because he believes that education makes a woman headstrong rather than yielding and submissive to her husband.
The story is told in a distinctive, grammatically imperfect style by an innocent but perceptive main character who has yet to be indoctrinated by her society’s commonly held ideologies. Adunni realizes that the ability to speak English does not reflect a speaker’s intelligence, and she discovers that English, though important in her quest for knowledge, is like any other language. She also questions why far fewer African people appear on TV than white people.
Through the moving story of a girl’s persistent struggle to acquire an education, The Girl With the Louding Voice brings deep, significant issues into focus.