The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta pdf Download

The Joys of Motherhood pdf Book Overview

The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta is novel that was first published in London, UK, by Allison & Busby in 1979 and was reprinted in Heinemann’s African Writers Series in 2008. The basis of the novel is the “necessity for a woman to be fertile, and above all to give birth to sons”. It tells the tragic story of Nnu-Ego, daughter of Nwokocha Agbadi and Ona, who had a bad fate with childbearing. This novel explores the life of a Nigerian woman, Nnu Ego. Nnu’s life centres on her children and through them, she gains the respect of her community.

Summary of the joys of motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

Nwokocha Agbadi is a proud, handsome and wealthy local chief. Although he has many wives, he finds a woman named Ona more attractive. Ona (or a priceless jewel) is the name he has given her. She is the daughter of a fellow chief. When she was young, her father took her everywhere he went, saying she was his ornament, and Nwokocha Agbadi would say jokingly in response, “Why don’t you wear her around your neck like an Ona?” It never occurred to him that he would be one of the men to later ask for her when she grew up.

During one rainy season Chief Agbadi and his friends have gone elephant hunting and having come too near the heavy creature, the chief is thrown with a mighty tusk into a nearby sugar-cane bush and is pinned to the floor. He aims his spear at the belly of the mighty animal and kills it but not until it has wounded him badly. Agbadi passes out and it seems to all he has died. He wakes up after several days to find Ona beside him. During his period of recovery, he sleeps with her, and shortly thereafter he finds out that his senior wife Agunwa is very ill. She later dies, and it is thought that perhaps she became ill as a result of seeing her husband making love to Ona on his apparent deathbed.

The funeral festivities continue through the day. When it is time to put Agunwa in her grave, everything she will need in her afterlife having been placed in her coffin, her personal slave is called. According to custom, a good slave is supposed to jump into the grave willingly to accompany her mistress but this young and beautiful slave begs for her life, much to the annoyance of the men. The hapless slave is pushed into the shallow grave but struggles out, appealing to her owner Agbadi, whose eldest son cries angrily: “So my mother does not deserve a decent burial?” So saying, he gives her a sharp blow with the head of the cutlass. Another relative gives her a final blow to the head and she falls into the grave, silenced forever. The burial is then completed.

Ona becomes pregnant from sleeping with Agbadi and delivers a baby girl named Nnu Ego (“twenty bags of cowries”). The baby is born with a mark on her head resembling that made by the cutlass used on the head of the slave woman. Ona gives birth to another son but she dies in premature labour and her son also dies a week afterwards. Nnu Ego becomes a woman but is barren. She is later remarried to Nnaife in lagos where she bears children and her life is measured by the number of children she has. She dies a sad and lonely woman on her return to her hometown.

The Joys of Motherhood pdf Book Author – Buchi Emecheta

Born of Ibo parents in Nigeria, Buchi Emecheta is widely known for her multilayered stories of black women struggling to maintain their identity and construct viable lives for themselves and their families. She writes, according to The New York Times, with “subtlety, power, and abundant compassion.” Her numerous novels include Second class citizen, The Slave Girl, The Family, Bride Price, and The Joys of Motherhood.

The joys of motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
The Joys of motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

Information about the book the joys of motherhood (Amazon)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ George Braziller Inc.; 2nd edition (August 7, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 230 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0807616230
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0807616239
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Best Sellers Rank: #144,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • #6,283 in Family Life Fiction (Books)
  • #11,629 in Literary Fiction (Books)
  • Customer Reviews: 4.7 out of 5 stars  231 ratings

Where to buy The Joys of Motherhood pdf by Buchi Emecheta Online

You can easily buy the paperback version of this great read that portrays the African woman’s struggles for accomplishment and recognition from the following sites:


The Joys of Motherhood pdf Book Reviews

Customer reviews on thriftbooks for the Joys of motherhood

 5 stars

The Bitterness of Motherhood

By User, August 31, 2005

Buchi Emecheta, writes with piercing teeth and gouging fingers: irony, sarcasm, and anger are her appendages: orphan, arranged marriage object, immigrant to England, five children by 22, marriage terminator, single mother acquiring degree in sociology, messaged writer. The setting for “The Joys of Motherhood” is in Lagos, Nigeria, between the 1930’s and the 1960’s. Lagos, the capital of the British colony of Nigeria, is primarily Yoruba; the main characters are Igbo. Change from chiefdoms to the city: “Men here [in Lagos] are too busy being white men’s servants to be men. We women mind the home. Not our husbands. Their manhood has been taken away from them. The shame of it is that they don’t know it. All they see is the money, shining white man’s money” Community versus individual: The scene is an attempted suicide in Lagos. “You are simply not allowed to commit suicide in peace, because everyone is responsible for the other person. Foreigners may call us a nation of busybodies, but to us, an individual’s life belongs to the community not just to him or her. So a person has no right to take it while another member of the community looks on. He must interfere, he must stop it happening.” Religion: “Her new Christian religion taught her to bear her cross with fortitude. If hers was to support her family, she would do so, until her husband found a new job.” War: The context is the forced draft of Nigerians into the army during World War II: “For me to be married to a soldier, a plunderer and killer of children…. I don’t know how I would feel if I was asked to kill people who had never offended me.” Men and Women: “God when will you create a woman who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage?” Motherhood: “When the children were good they belonged to the father; when they were bad, they belonged to the mother. Every woman knew this.”

 5 stars

The real plot…

By User, November 23, 2003

I have to argue with VICTRAV’s telling of the book…Nnu Ego was sent to marry a man she did not know yet – but this was after a failed marriage to a man she did know. Also, Nnu Ego knew her future husbands brother and family – just not him. Yes, Nnu Ego had some struggle in regards to having children but having children is what made her happy and further made her a woman. Her husband, Nnaife, did take another wife, his deceased brothers wife as Ibo custom deemed proper. Adaku – the second wife taken ultimately leaves Nnaife because she doesn’t like him. Okpo, the third wife came into their lives when Nnu Ego was reaching her 40’s – and instead of offering irrritance like Adaku, offered help to Nnu Ego. Wanting to leave Nnaife and Lagos are thoughts that cross Nnu Ego’s mind throughout the entire book but its not until the encarciration of Nnaife that Nnu Ego returns to her home in Ibuza. Having no husband and all her children gone their own ways Nnu Ego’s life seems a sad one but in the end, after she passes, her children pay homage to her with “the greatest funeral Ibuza had ever seen.” (Emecheta p.224)A definately important thing to remember when reading this book is not to read it from your culture’s eyes but to try and understand another cultures ways.

 5 stars

Wonderful Thought-Provoking Fiction

By User, March 24, 2002

Joys of Motherhood was one of the books I read for my Post Colonial African lit class, and I have to say it was my favourite novel on the course. I could barely put this book down. Emecheta rights in an engaging style that gets the reader wrapped up in the lives of the characters. I found myself cheering on Adaku, hating Oshia and wanting Nnu Ego to break free from the patriarchal system.This is not the kind of book you read to see how it ends since you know from the beginning it will end in sadness. You read this book only to know the characters and their plight. It even gives you a look at how _men_ are victims of the patriarchal system as well. I fully recommend Joys of Motherhood to anyone who enjoys fully engaging characters.

Community readers reviews on goodreads for the joys of motherhood by Buchi Emecheta


500 reviews.  Edited June 12, 2015

“Yes, life could at times be so brutal that the only things that made it livable were dreams.”– Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood
It’s been a while since I’ve read an African novel that has touched me this much. This is a story that had me transfixed from the start, a tale of heartache, hope, and change. The book’s structure is reminiscent of “Things Fall Apart” in that the early part of the book takes place in an African village that still followed its traditional ways, while the latter half has all the marks of colonialism and the struggle the locals went through to keep up with the changing society. I’ve always felt that the most fascinating books about Africa are the ones about transitional periods because they offer so many contrasts. Emecheta uses her novel to look at colonialism, an important backdrop to the story of the female protagonist, Nnu Ego, with a critical eye. It was interesting to see the clashes between the African and the British ways; I couldn’t help but imagine what might had been had the colonialists been a little bit more culturally sensitive. This book is rich with sociological detail. I enjoyed reading about how the migration of Nigerians from the villages into the cities created a complex society. Not only do neighbours speak different languages coming from different parts of the country, the inhabitants have to forget their village ways if they are to remain sane. The realization hits the newcomer (Nnu Ego) to the city that she has to change her ways:

“She had been trying to be traditional in a modern urban setting. It was because she wanted to be a woman of Ibuza in a town like Lagos that she lost her child. This time she was going to play according to the new rules.”

And the new rules are the British colonialist rules. I know colonialism did so much damage in Africa but it’s mainly books like this that help me understand to understand the extent to which the societies changed. Even simple things like the materials used to build a house, or the type of jobs men took to be considered “men” changed with colonialism, and these often had their repercussions: “Things have changed a lot. This is the age of the white man. Nowadays every young man wants to cement his mud hut and cover it with corrugated-iron sheets instead of the palm leaves we are used to.”
I’m currently interested in the participation of African soldiers during WW2 so I read with interest the portions that described the Nigerian men being forcibly conscripted into the army. They went to Burma to fight yet they didn’t even know who they were fighting, why they were fighting, or where Burma was. That was one of the most upsetting parts of the book for me. When Nnu Ego said, “There is nothing we can do. The British own us, just like God does, and just like God they are free to take any of us when they wish”, I was stunned because the Nigerians, like all Africans at one time in their history, really had no power over their own country. “It’s unbelievable…Why can’t they fight their own wars? Why drag us innocent Africans into it?”

Soon you realize the title of the book is very ironic. What are the joys of motherhood when your life is dependent on producing children, preferably sons; when you have to share your husband with another woman; when you can’t afford to feed or clothe your children, send them to school? Yet, motherhood was what made an African woman at that time a woman. No other choices were really available to her. She strived to be a complete women,” i.e. women with children.

This book was sad to read on so many levels. I was able to feel the repression Nnu Ego faced as she struggled to be “a full woman, full of children.” I felt frustrated with her at times, sometimes I just wanted to hug her when I could feel how much she was hurting and how few options she had. Emecheta showed the pressure and the strain that women were often under to be perfect, the effect that patriarchy has on women. Perhaps not much has changed. “I wanted to die, because I failed to live up to the standard expected of me by the males in my family, my father and my husband—and now I have to include my sons. But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We women subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man’s world, which women will always help to build.” I definitely plan on reading more books by Emecheta this year.

Nnedi Okroafor

Author 147 books

Edited March 19, 2011

wonderful. this novel takes you deep into igbo culture and nigerian culture as a while in the 30s/40s. you see the connection and conflict between the old and the new, the traditional and the foreign. you see the role that world war II played in nigeria, too. and she never gives easy or simple answers. emecheta writes the most thought-provoking addictive page-turners. also for westerners, this novel is a good exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes.


163 reviews

July 29, 2018

This ironically titled tale of Nnu Ego is, in layers, a plain feminist text. The Joys of Motherhood covers both the traditional as well as the ‘modern’ (aka, the British colonialism). Emecheta draws a stolid picture of the woes and hardship of women, particularly a poor woman in a patriarchal world. Just like any other commodities, even the women themselves believe that their husbands own them. Nnu Ego gave her whole life to be on the receiving end of the ‘joys of motherhood’, but when she died, [s]he died quietly there, with no child to hold her hand and no friend to talk to her.


613 reviews

February 18, 2019

Her mother’s dying wish for her (never a wife herself, she guarded her freedom and was like her father’s son) was that Nnu Ego would firstly, ‘have a life of her own’ and secondly, be allowed to ‘be a woman’.
We meet her on a day she is distraught, wracked by bitter disappointment, over the loss of her first child. Every chapter is like a new phase in her life, one that might hold the key to the elusive fulfillment she seeks, to a change in fortune, and yet every chapter brings more disappointment, sacrifice and what seem like insurmountable challenges. Worse, how her efforts are perceived by her husband, who manages to view all through only the lens of its impact on his reputation. He has the essence of a traditional upbringing combined with an inherited patriarchal sense of entitlement, learned from his colonial masters at the same time, unmanned by the ‘feminised’ occupation he fulfills for them.
They believe in sacrifice and reward, but it eludes them, in their failure to notice the societal changes around them, the new freedoms young people in Lagos subscribe to, the intermingling of people’s, the ambitions of youth that no longer support their families and younger siblings. Nnu regrets neglecting friendship, the one thing that may have provided solace outside of marriage and children, she encourages it in her daughters and remaining son. Even in death she is resented, a shrine set up for villagers to appeal to if barren, a wish her spirit did not always grant.
For they believed she had it all, that the joy of being a mother was the joy of giving all to your children. Was this a response to Efuru’s closing lines? That story of a woman who achieved fulfillment outside of wifehood and motherhood? “She had never experienced the joys of motherhood. Why then did women worship her?” 13 years after Nwapa’s question, Emecheta presents her novel of motherhood’s questionable joys. Brilliant. One of the best reads of 2019 definitely.

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