Review | Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo

Book Cover of Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo

Changes is about Esi, a modern woman in Ghana, who leaves her husband because of their unhappy marriage (and an incident of marital rape). She finds love soon after, in a polygamous relationship. In this story, Esi navigates what it means to live on her own terms, as a woman in 1990s Ghana.

I was expecting Changes to be a romance novel, with butterflies and warm feelings. It’s definitely not that. I found that it was more of a social commentary. Exploring the dynamics of monogamous vs. polygamous relationships, the struggle between culture/tradition and Western ideals, and a larger statement about gender relations in Ghana.

The blurb is right to describe the novel as a love story though. There is platonic love between Esi and her best friend Opokuya, and romantic love between Esi and her lover (I don’t want to give any spoilers). While the romance isn’t sappy, you get a feel that Esi and her lover are enamored with each other. There are a number of sex scenes in the novel, and quite a bit of drama stemming from the sex. I like big, and bold declarations of love, so I would’ve liked more in that aspect.

I liked Aidoo’s depiction of family and its importance in a traditional African context. Esi loves her family, and values about their opinion (even though she’d rather not). You can tell from the novel that families in Ghana heavily involved in marriage rites, and that they step up to help each other in times of need. The definition of family is beyond nuclear ties, and extends to kinsmen and distant ties. Opokuya’s story depicts an African nuclear family from a working mother’s perspective. She works hard at the hospital, goes  home to tidy affairs, and handles a million things in between. I could feel her exhaustion at certain instances.

I learnt about Hausa culture in Ghana. And marvelled at the similarities between Ghanian Hausa people, and Nigerian Hausa people. It’s interesting that both groups occupy the Northern region of their respective country. Books like these keep reminding me of how similar African culture can be. You should check out Rebecca’s review of the novel, which talks about how Esi experiences different changes (true to the title of the novel).

I’d rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the social commentary, but the story was too slow-moving in the beginning, and the ending seemed like a cop-out to me.

Esi’s characterisation as a modern, independent woman was interesting to me because a lot of the things that makes her modern, are commonplace today. I guess it’s indicative of the culture shift since the 1990s. What do you think a modern woman looks like today?

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