Review: The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Daré

These are strange times we are living in, there is no doubt. I, like many people, have sought some comfort and escape in my vast TBR pile and the wonderful world of stories. Thank goodness for online book shops, Kindles and friends who pass you on pre-publication proofs of the biggest upcoming novels.

The Girl with the Louding Voice is a story about fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl Adunni, who dreams of a future where she is free – and able to go to school – in spite of the shocking circumstances she continually finds herself in.

Adunni is a brilliant heroine – the perfect mixture of naivety and feistiness. Normally I hate the word feisty used to describe a female character (it’s just so bleugh), but in this instance, I actually think it really suits Adunni. She doesn’t stay quiet. She asks awkward questions and is determined that those around her in positions of power and privilege understand what it is like to have nothing and nobody.

It is Adunni’s innocence and resilience that makes the story so harrowing in many parts. From the death of her mother, to her forced marriage to a man many decades older than her, to her work as a modern-day slave in one of Nigeria’s wealthiest households, Adunni faces things that no teenage girl should have to face. But as Daré points out through the use of facts about Nigeria sprinkled through the text: underage marriage, missing out on an education and forced slavery is something that happens in many parts of Nigeria – and, indeed, the world.

I loved the writing style that Daré employs – a broken and mistaken English that gradually gets better and more confident throughout the story. Adunni knows that all she has is her voice, and she uses it – in the words that she uses and learns, in the questions that she asks of those around her, in her seeking of Rebecca – the previous household who went missing, in the telling of her own story.

Mama say: “Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk. It will be speaking till the day God is calling you come.”

I really liked how Daré gave Adunni an important women for each important phase of her life. From her mother who has already died by the time we get to know Adunni, to the second wife Khadija who looks after Adunni in her arranged marriage, to Ms Tia who ultimately finds and saves Adunni – securing her freedom and a future. These women are the pillars of Adunni’s story and all give her some happiness and something to learn from.

I really couldn’t recommend this book enough. It’s wonderful, heartbreaking, difficult, funny and uplifting all rolled into the story of one teenage girl. Adunni is a brilliant character – one you fall in love with immediately, and her emancipation is so sweet because you know what she will go on to achieve. To create a character as strong as this is testament to Daré’s incredible writing.

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