Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Scarlet Song

Senegalese author Mariama Ba only wrote two novels in her lifetime - one was So Long A Letter which I raved about a couple of weeks ago, and the other was Scarlet Song, written as she was dying. Since Scarlet Song was sitting on my bookshelf, I couldn't resist picking it up and reading it. I was eager to see what else Ba had produced and whether I would find it spoke to me in the same manner as So Long A Letter did.

As I read the first few pages, I felt some initial disappointment. The style of the writing (possibly due to the translator) was a little more stilted and read almost like a fairy tale from the expression and cadence of the phrases, which I hadn't been expecting. I decided to push on however, and soon discovered that the story itself was so compelling that it transcended any reservations I had about the style of the writing and the subjects it seemed to be dealing with.

In short, a black Senegalese student falls in love with a white girl at his university, the daughter of the French ambassador to Senegal. A Romeo and Juliet-type story plays out; the lovers are found out by their respective families, both of whom disapprove strongly, and the girl is whisked back to France immediately. The young couple continue to correspond via letters, and eventually the man travels to France and following their secret marriage, the pair return to live in Senegal. Although they feel as though their love can conquer all, and they are filled with the idealism of youth, the challenges of living as a mixed race couple in Senegal soon become apparent. I won't say any more on the plot in case anyone wants to read it and doesn't want a spoiler, but I will say that this was an extremely interesting read for me. Mariama Ba does an excellent job of presenting the viewpoints of both parties, depicting cultural and racial clashes from both sides of the divide, and concluding her story with a very vivid final scene. She is one of the best authors I've encountered when it comes to drawing the reader completely into her world.


Danielle said...

This one sounds good, too. I already have her other title on my wishlist.

booklogged said...

Sounds like an author I would enjoy reading.