Harmattan Rain, published by Per Ankh in 2008, is the debut novel from the Ghanaian writer, Ayesha Harruna Attah. At 434 pages, the novel shows the depth of time and effort spent in writing it and I must confess that the first chapter alone hooked me in.
The book is divided into three parts and I like the fact that the story took the traditional title-chapter form which makes it an easy read as well as making it easier to grasp the meaning of a particular chapter at a time.
The novel starts strongly with Lizzie-Achiaa running away from her father’s home to the capital city, Accra intent on finding her lover who has disappeared. She also hopes to pursue her hopes of becoming a nurse. The first chapter makes you look ahead anxiously for what is to happen in the subsequent chapters. This, I think, is the mark of a good writer who builds your interest and suspense right from the beginning.
Over the course of the story, we follow three generations of women as they cope with family, love and life. In addition to Lizzie-Achia a, we meet Akua Afriyie, her first daughter, who strikes out on her own as a single parent. We also meet Akua-Afriyie’s daughter, Suri who grows up under the care of an overprotective mother. She eventually leaves home to study in the USA, where she encounters a life unlike her own childhood.
One of the many things I liked about the book was the inclusion of the contextual scenes which showcased the political history of Ghana. By the end of the novel, the reader learns a lot about the evolution of Ghanaian politics since the pre-independence era. This makes the book much more than a work of fiction. It serves as a major reservoir for future generations since a book is a living tissue. Atah’s great achievement is in managing to weave this much of Ghana’s political history of Ghana into the main story without boring the reader.
Harmattan Rain is an excellent debut and the author deserves to be commended. All in all, it is a good read. Fittingly, the book was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa Region.