This is the second book I have read from Amma Darko – the first was Beyond the Horizon which I enjoyed tremendously. The Housemaid was published by Heinemann in 1998. It is 107 pages long.
In her books, Darko has been keen on exploring issues concerning women as the society in which we live in. She seems to frown on certain aspects of the woman’s world. And in The Housemaid, right from the onset, Darko presents before the reader what is at stake for the ‘she’ in the Ghanaian society:
“In Ghana, if you come into the world as a she, acquire the habit of praying. And master it. Because you will need it, desperately, as old age pursues you, and Mother Nature’s hand approaches you with a wry smile, paint and brush at the ready, to daub you with wrinkles.”
“If, on top of this, your children, wagging a desperate war of their own for economic survival, find themselves having too little time for you, count you among the forsaken and forgotten; and if, crowning it all, cash, fine sweet cash, decides it doesn’t really fancy your looks and eludes you in all nooks, crooks and crannies, then know for sure that you are on route to qualifying grandly as a witch.” – Page 3.
In this story, we meet Efia a maid in the house of Tika, who has been single, and is childless at the ripe old age of thirty-five. At the age of eighteen, Tika had entered into a relationship when she met Owuraku. Owuraku was a brilliant guy who had passed his examinations with distinction while Tika failed miserably. This made Tika to divert her attention from education into the world of business. Her decision, however, came from the motivation of her mother, Madam Sakyiwa who was an illiterate yet had become extremely wealthy. Madam Sakyiwa owed her wealth to her man who was a wealthy married man yet did not have a child. And so once Madam Sakyiwa was able to give him a child – Tika, the man made her rich by setting her up with big businesses. Later on in the story, Tika’s father died and Tika blamed her mother for being the cause.
All is not well between Tika and Efia. The latter, egged on by her village relatives, secretly plots to fall “innocently” pregnant, whereupon her mother and her grandmother will blame Tika for not taking care of their daughter, and demand some form of compensation. Their scheme, however, falls apart. And alas, when Tika learns the truth, greater tension is mounted between the housemaid and her Madam. Some of the relevant themes to look out for in this novel are that of superstition, ignorance, greed and corruption.
This is a good read however I must say that I enjoyed Darko’s previous book, Beyond the Horizon, much more than this one.