The Concubine has its setting in West Africa and was published in 1966. Like Amadi’s other books, it centers on traditional values in African society. Rivalry, conflict and disunity are major themes, evidenced most strikingly by the land wrangle between Madume and Emenike over a shifted boundary. Madume threatens to invoke traditional powers against Emenike.
The rift culminates into a physical fight between the two. Athough Emenike recovers from injuries he suffers during the fight with Madume, he later dies mysteriously, apparently of “lock chest”. Many villagers doubt that the death is accidental. They think Madume had a hand in it but dare not say so.
When Madume quarrels with Ihuoma, Emenike’s wife, about a plantain that she had grown on the same piece of land that had often sparked quarrels between him and Emenike, Nnadi is there to intervene for his sister in law. He is loyal and protective of her.
Madume becomes blind when a cobra spits in his eyes and soon hangs himself. Many think his death has something to do with the piece of land and the gods’ revenge.
Amadi touches on another theme, that of love, through the relationship between Ihuoma and Emenike, and later on between Ihuoma and Ekwueme. Ihuoma is unmistakably beautiful. She is admired by other women in the village, both physically and morally.
The ‘shy’ Ekweme becomes the brave one as he courts Ihuoma, paying her frequent visits, and volunteering to help thatch her leaking roof in the rainy season.
Ekweme’s love for Ihuoma grows daily but his parents frown at the idea of his marrying a woman whose womb has born another man’s children. His marriage to Ahurole, his childhood fiancée turns to be disastrous when she administers a love portion to distract him from thinking about Ihuoma.
Ekweme goes through thick and thin to have Ihuoma as his wife. Despite the fact that dibias from far and wide are used to offer appeasing sacrifices to the gods, Ekweme does not live to see his dream. A stray arrow from Ihuoma’s son Nwonna kills him just before the joyous celebration of the union set for the next day.
A riveting story, Amadi’s The Concubine is considered one of the classics of modern African literature.