In the Début shortlist, this year’s Booker Prize winner is up against some “must-read” titles of the year. The authors tackled issues of racism, domestic slavery, prejudice, alcoholism and identity. Each of the shortlistees wrapped these complex themes in beautiful, sought-after packages and entertaining narratives, making it a tough category for this year’s judges.
The story told in this novel is an important one. The trauma of girls forced into marriage and the blight of domestic slavery in Nigeria are both issues that must be brought to light. As Adunni wonders: “Why are the women in Nigeria seem to be suffering for everything more than the men?” The Girl With the Louding Voice joins a long and fine tradition of issue-led novels that have sparked conversations resulting in social change. Social justice is a laudable intention when writing a novel, yet one also reads them for subtler and less concrete gains.
Nigerian-raised Daré was inspired to write this novel, her first, after her daughter turned eight — the same age that girls from her home country can be sent to work as housemaids for middle-class families. Her protagonist Adunni is still young when she is forced into an abusive marriage. Told in Adunni’s phonetically written broken English, the novel sees her flee her husband and become a housemaid, where she is also subject to abuse. How she will escape her terrible situation becomes obvious fairly early on, making the ending somewhat anticlimactic. But that doesn’t stop us rooting for the bravely determined heroine.
Sceptre's lead fiction début launch for 2020 was inspired by the "house girls" who worked for Daré's family while she was growing up in Nigeria (she now lives in Essex). It won the Bath Novel Award in 2018. The "Girl" of the title is Adunni who, after her mother's death, is made to become the third wife of an elderly taxi driver. Then, following a tragedy in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant to a wealthy family in Lagos, where no one wants to talk about the mysterious disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca. No one, that is, except Adunni.