The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré: Unforgettable

The Girl With The Louding Voice is a novel that will make you make you angry and make you weep. Yet occasionally it will give you a reason to smile.

Angry because Abi Daré’s narrative depicts a society which views women as little more than a product. A thing to be traded; married off to pay debts and turned into a baby production factory. Any woman who doesn’t get pregnant can fall victim to peddlers of superstitious beliefs that she is inhabited by demons.

Tearful because The Girl With The Louding Voice is the tale of Adunni, a young girl married off at 14 years old to the local taxi driver in return for “Agric fowl, very costly. Bag of rice, two of it. And money.” Instead of completing her education and fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher she is abused by her new husband. Though she flees from her marriage she ends up beaten and starved in Lagos as a domestic slave in the home of Big Madam, a business woman, and her lecherous husband Big Daddy.

A reason to smile? Yes, astonishing as it might seem in novel of so much despair, Abe Daré does offer moments of touching humour as when Adunni pretends to be a teacher, using the trees and leaves in the village as her pupils and admonishing them when they get their sums wrong. Or later, in Lagos, when she tries to use some newly-learned complex words from “The Collins” dictionary to impress a woman who has be-friended her, but completely muddles up the context of her new vocabulary.

The humour is an added reason for us to root for Adunni, willing her to succeed against all the odds.

Her friends in the village cannot understand why she is not delighted at the prospect of marriage to a rich man. But Adduni wants more from life. She aspires to be an educated confident woman, using her “louding voice” to share her perspective on the world. But her desire is not for herself alone, it is to give hope to other people:

I want to enter a room and people will hear me even before I open my mouth to be speaking. I want to live in this life and help many people so that when I grow old and die, I will still be living through the people I am helping.

The Girl With The Louding Voice brings to light important issues of forced marriages and domestic slavery, both still prevalent in Nigeria. Though we experience these through the voice of one young girl, the book also makes it evident there are thousands of Adduni’s in the country.

Abi Daré places Adunni’s situation in this broader context by prefacing many chapters with extracts from a book in Big Madam’s house. The Book of Nigerian Facts, supposedly published in 2014, is fictitious but the facts it conveys are real. The book teaches Adduni about the contradictory nature of Nigeria — the fact its oil deposits have made it the richest country in Africa yet an estimated 17% of girls in the country are married before the age of 15 and approximately 15 million of its children are victims of human trafficking.

GirlEffect: a charity working to support girls being made to work the streets of Nigeria

The factual content is sobering but never detracts from the vivacity of the prose. Abi Daré captures the individuality and exhuberance of her young narrator’s language with its broken English, colourful descriptions, texture and rhythm:

Her face is looking like one devil-child vex with her and paint it with his feets. On top the orange powder on her face, there is a red line on the two both eyebrows which she is drawing all the way to her hears. Green powder on the eyelids. Lips with gold lipstick, two cheeks full of red powder.

It’s the language of The Girl With The Louding Voice that drew me in as much as its tale of courage and friendship. Adunni’s voice jumps off the page in a way that reminded me of my first reaction to reading The Colour Of Purple by Alice Walker.

There are hints of caricature in the portrayals of Big Madam and Big Daddy, and some touches of melodrama but that doesn’t take away from the force and power of this novel. It was one of the best novels I read in 2020.

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré: EndNotes

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an M.Sc. in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University. She then completed an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University of London.  Abi now lives with her family in Essex.

The Girl with the Louding Voice is her debut novel. It was inspired by a conversation between the author and her eight-year-old daughter about young girls like her who worked unpaid as housemaids. It won The Bath Novel Award in 2018 and was selected as a finalist in The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition in 2018. 

The novel was published in the UK by Spectre in February 2020.

There’s an interview with Abi Daré on the Waterstones blog and a lengthier one from an event at Newham library in London.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

31 thoughts on “The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré: Unforgettable

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  • January 17, 2021 at 12:01 am
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    Thank you for your review. This novel is the newest acquisition on my TBR shelf, and I hope to get to it soon.

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    • January 18, 2021 at 6:32 pm
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      I don’t think you will be disappointed…

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  • January 13, 2021 at 7:55 am
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    I absolutely loved this and it made my books of the year. It was heart-breaking but then positive and you really got a feel for what it’s like to live inside the issues the author discusses. I can’t wait to read what she writes next!

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    • January 13, 2021 at 10:21 pm
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      She’s going to be an author to watch for sure.

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  • January 12, 2021 at 9:56 am
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    I bought the book last year and sailed into it, like you I enjoyed the colourful vivid English, the narrator’s energy & determination. But when I reached one-third of the way, I had to put it aside to read another book which had a return deadline on it, and I’ve never got back to the book. Thanks for the reminder and also, a great review.

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  • January 12, 2021 at 9:52 am
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    Like Ali, I’m a little worried I would be so angry about parts of the story that it would be bad for my blood pressure. I should step outside my privilege more than I do, I know – but I tend to get upset about things and frustrated if I can do nothing about them. I end up wanting to go off to campaign and change the world – which is probably impractical at my time of life. But it does sound like a wonderful and very powerful book.

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    • January 12, 2021 at 9:45 pm
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      I understand Karen. But there are times I’d rather read a book that gave me an emotional reaction than one that was just passing through my mind leaving no trace

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    • January 13, 2021 at 7:53 am
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      I coped with it, Kaggsy, I did make a donation to an education charity though!

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  • January 12, 2021 at 9:26 am
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    This is definitely on my reading list for 2021!
    Thank you for sharing the video interview, I’ll watch it! It is so pleasant to actually see and hear the authors, not only to read their books. I remember watching a 1 hour interview with Yaa Gyasi – she was amazing! 😀

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    • January 12, 2021 at 9:47 pm
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      it will be money well spent I think Judith. BTW I’m expecting a copy of your new novel for review soon via Anne Cater. Looking forward to it

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  • January 12, 2021 at 12:50 am
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    I had already formed the intention of reading this one, now reinforced by your review. And I’ve finally got a system – I’m entering books I ‘must’ buy in the back of this year’s diary, so all that’s left to do is for me to make my way to the bookshop before I go back to work.

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    • January 12, 2021 at 9:48 pm
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      Sometimes the simplest of solutions works the best. I got tired of coming home only to realise the book I had just bought was already on my bookshelves. So i started keeping a list in Excel and I can access it via my phone. Mind you, I can’t actually use it since no bookshops are open for browsing.

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  • January 11, 2021 at 8:26 pm
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    I’m happy to hear you found it memorable and important! It’s one read that will always stay with me I think! Fabulous review!

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    • January 11, 2021 at 9:28 pm
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      The title may put some people off – my husband snorted when he saw it!. Such a shame because if people can get past that I think they would be entranced

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  • January 11, 2021 at 7:47 pm
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    Such an important story to keep going around the world. It never ceases to amaze me how girls and women can be treated. The photos included are beautiful. Such beautiful girls.

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    • January 11, 2021 at 9:28 pm
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      I was searching for some suitable images and was horrified at some of those available – lots of posing, pouting girls which made me feel sick

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  • January 11, 2021 at 5:30 pm
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    I have been tempted by this one a few times, but I don’t always feel able to bear the despair but I know that’s cowardly and is a kind of privilege I should be wary of. Certainly it is a book on my radar. Great review.

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    • January 11, 2021 at 9:31 pm
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      I understand that reluctance Ali and I know its one that many readers share. In our book club I suggested reading The Girl by Edna O’Brien (based on the girls abducted by Boko Harum ) only to hear one person say it could upset the club members. Rather frustrating since if we take that attitude all the time we’re only ever going to read “nice’ books

      Reply

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