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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

UK Publisher: Profile Books
US Publisher: Harper Collins

‘Comic, tragic, topical and entertaining in equal measure’ – Bernardine Evaristo

To the dismay of her ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich, rotund patriarch, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore considered a great prize in Nigeria, but even graduates must produce children and her husband’s persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be. She only wants to escape to a quiet life, but the others disapprove of the newest, youngest, cleverest addition to the family. Treated with respect by her husband, she is viewed with suspicion by her seniors – who fear she may unlock their well-guarded secret.

Through the voices of Baba Segi and his four wives, Lola Shoneyin weaves a vibrant story of love, secrets and a family like every other – happy and unhappy, truthful and not, sometimes kind, sometimes competitive, always bound by blood, and the past.


A Rabelaisian picture of polygamous marriage,comically capturing the physical realities of ordinary Nigerian life. (Giles Foden 2010-04-01)

A funny and moving story told with love and compassion … a jewel of a novel (Petina Gappah)

Riotous… this debut novel is a real eye-opener: a deft, compelling and unsettling tale. (Ailin Quinlan Irish Examiner 2010-05-10)

This deft, lightly spun story packs quite a punch. Shoneyin’s unravelling of a family is rooted in and flavoured by Nigeria, but speaks more widely. It is a book you’ll want to eat in a sitting – and then start again (Diran Adebayo)

This first novel is a compelling, unsettling tale of a polygamous household and the women within Baba Segi’s walls. Shoneyin’s sharply written portrait of a family and a nation gripped by the past, yet surging into modernity, manages to be funny, disconcerting and violent all at once. An utterly gripping read. (Patricia Duncker)

A rich debut… an engrossing and beautifully written domestic tale of polygamy and rivalry set in her native Nigeria. (Harper’s Bazaar 2010-03-01)

Riveting… a truly compelling tale… (Davina Morris The Voice 2010-04-05)

An engrossing portrayal of a polygamous household… a rich portrait of a family on the verge of collapse. (Yasmin Sulaiman The List 2010-04-01)

An insightful and compelling tale set within a polygamous household (Pride 2011-01-01)

A novel of clamorous intensity. With such Chaucerian tumult, one expects comedy and there is certainly some humour here, but much pain too… Shoneyin’s language is that of a poet, both extravagant and exact… Well-structured and with a gratifying resolution. (Jane Housham Guardian 2011-01-15)

‘A rich debut… an engrossing and beautifully written domestic tale of polygamy and rivalry’ Harpers Bazaar

Shoneyin is an award winning British Nigerian author and poet who was named Africa Literary Person of the Year in...