Three Strong Women (by Marie NDiaye) is an intricately crafted, complex and thought provoking book. It doesn’t initially feel like a novel as it comprises three ‘novellas’, three fictional accounts that each explores one individual’s life at a crucial moment in time. Yet, reflecting on the content, the writing and the structure it falls clearly into the category of novel: the stories are linked in subtle ways through imagery, peripheral character and atmosphere.
Senegalese author, Sembene Ousmane ‘s two novellas, The Money Order with White Genesis (published by Heinemann in 1972), highlight how societies in modern Africa struggle with moral issues and unusual situations. Dieng experiences bureaucratic incompetence and deceit in “The Money Order” which leads him to a public act of despair, while in “White Genesis”, the decline of a way of life is examined through a tragic tale of incest.
In So Long a Letter, the late Mariama Bâ offers a sensitive portrayal of women’s struggle in her native Senegal on the dawn of independence. Neither a polemic nor an advice manual, Bâ explores the complex difficulties facing two Muslim women as they wrestle with their husbands’ second marriages. A subtle and thought-provoking novel, it not only exposes the human cost of polygamy but the very real hopes and betrayals of those standing on the threshold of change.