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The Wifes Tale The Wife's Tale is a beautiful history of a family that will pull at your heart stringsMy goodness this book was impossible for me to put down This breath taking recount of a woman's life in Ethiopia was truly incredible I'm Canadian and I haven't left North America so reading about other people's lives has always been something I enjoy Seeing into this woman's life and the troubles and triumphs that occurred It's so incredible that there are hardly wordsThis memoir is worth every second and needs to be read by everyone in my humble opinion The life of this stranger and how she lived will give you insight to a world you might not have been aware existed Yetemegnu's life and journey is so mind blowing I highly recommend this book and it's a must read for me This woman was married young had many children learned so much and felt so many emotions throughout her life It was mesmerizing and made me really think about my own life as well The reflection this novel brings on is worth every pennyThis book may be difficult to follow some words are not in English but in my ARC there was a little dictionary at the back Additionally it's not some action packed story it's following a woman's life so at times it's not super exciting It's a slice of Yetemegnu's lifeThis story of bravery determination and love is one of my top books of the year now I want to see it on every bookshelf in town If you're looking for a book to open up your horizons pick this book up Seriously make it one of the few books you read this yearFive out of five starsI received a free copy of this book in ARC form via Goodreads First Reads For anyone unfamiliar with the 20th century history of Ethiopia this is a wonderful and mind broadening introduction The prime focus of the book is Yetemegnu who we are first introduced to on the day she is married off at eight to a man two decades her senior Yetemegnu’s life encompassed most of the last century and she was regularly caught up in the various turmoils her country went through The author is one of her granddaughters and she has spent many years recording the stories her grandmother told as well as learning from other members of her family what it was like to live through those decades Ethiopia and her citizens often seem worlds apart from anything we know but humans are humans wherever they live and the emotional life of Yetemegnu pours through the book Too emotional perhaps for some Westerners Her love is deep for her many children and grandchildren though it’s not always reciprocated in eual terms Her love is even stronger for her husband in spite of the occasional beatings he gives her or his long absences he is a priest whose career rises in status as he grows older or even his treatment of her as his much favoured child For much of the first part of the book the reader feels there is little love between the two but our feelings are wrong Woven into Yetemegnu’s story are the traditions and beliefs of the people Christianity is their religion but it’s an unfamiliar form of it Mary is the main focus and Jesus is seldom mentioned The book is full of the wonder of food spices are lovingly listed meals described in detail along with the courtesies that should be observed at mealtimes especially with guests The constant need to prepare food informs the daily rhythms of these people’s lives Then there is the wondrous Ethiopian natural landscape which has a blazing and sometimes terrifying life of its own Edemariam often reuires the reader to make unexpected leaps from one paragraph to the next and there are a number of side paths taken that add to the flavour of the book though not always to its immediate comprehensibility It might also have been helpful to have a list of the most prominent people in the story as the Ethiopian names aren’t always easy to remember Nevertheless Edemariam's extensive research and the ease with which she writes about a country that she personally knew only in the latter part of the 20th century makes this a remarkable read The twentieth century history of Ethiopia is told here by the author through the remarkable life of her paternal grandmother Yetemegnu to whom this book is also a personal tribute Although a biography rather than a memoir the author attempts to tell the story through her grandmother’s eyesYetemegnu was born in 1916 and died in 2013 She was married at the age of eight you read that right to a priest who was 22 years older than her and had the first of her 9 children at the age of 14 a tenth pregnancy miscarried She was born into a feudal slave owning society that had hardly changed in centuries and over the course of her long life witnessed the Italian invasion of the 1930s the expulsion of the Italians in 1941 the overthrow of the Emperor Haile Selassie and the “Red Terror” that followed as well as the Great Famine of 1984 85 It probably helps if you know something of the country’s history before reading this but if not there is a timeline at the back of the book along with a glossary of Amharic words and phrases used in the textI thought the opening 100 pages or so were really good but the narrative seemed to lose a bit of impetus after that Yetemegnu was a very religious woman and and the text delved into dreams visions and spirit possession as well as descriptions of years of litigation around her husband’s estate We do get a sense of Ethiopian Christianity which seems to or at least did occupy a central part in the lives of the majority of the population and which involves a level of absolute devotion rarely seen in Western countries these days The book closes with a very fitting salute from the author Yetemegnu was certainly a woman with very great reserves of strength and resilience I think the best advice to a potential reader is to skip to the back of the book and look at the glossary and the timeline For some reason the publisher decided to put this information at the back of the book instead of up with the map at the beginning in the book and it's to the books detriment After being constantly confused during the reading I did not encounter the glossary or the timeline until after I finished the bookAs other reviewers have stated the book was in need of a family tree also The story itself I found a be a fascinating complex piece of history and culture I thought the author also did a very good job of portraying the main characters personality and documenting the huge cultural changes that occurred during her grandmother’s lifetime What a tribute to her grandmother Not an easy read but worth trying to read A hundred years ago a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar Before she was ten years old Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior an ambitious poet priest Over the next century her world changed beyond recognition She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation Allied bombardment and exile from her city the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie revolution and civil war She endured all these things alongside parenthood widowhood and the death of children Aida Edemariam retells her grandmother's stories of a childhood surrounded by proud priests and soldiers of her husband's imprisonment of her fight for justice all of it played out against an ancient cycle of festivals and the rhythms of the seasons A chilling account of life in Ethiopia I found it hard to follow and understand in places but overall a very interesting bookI received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways and have chosen to give my honest opinion about itWhile definitely a touching story it almost seems like an overdone and cliched one While I do recognize that this was the recounting of a true story it seems as if it could have been better written; the writing style was confusing for instance it was hard to distinguish from the narrator and from her own thoughts That being said the events in this book are definitely inspiring and sometimes bittersweet which is refreshing amidst the sea of other contemporary true stories 'A ring was threaded onto her third finger another onto the man’s It would be years before she understood what she had promised’ The Wife’s Tale a personal history is the story of one woman’s life growing up and growing old in her native home of Ethiopia Written by Aida Edemariam she recalls the stories that her grandmother Yetemegnu passed on to her about her life and the incredible changes she witnessed in her countryPublished by 4th Estate The Wife’s Tale is a tribute to Yetemegnu a woman of great strength who survived wars and occupationsI’ve been reading non fiction recently and when I received a copy of The Wife’s Tale earlier this year I knew it was a book that I wanted to make time for There is something about a memoir that always invokes a feeling of immersion into somebody else’s life As a reader you go on a journey through the thoughts and feelings of a stranger It’s uite an honour to be able to do that and such is the case with YetemegnuMarried off before she even reached puberty Yetemegnu was oblivious to what was happening The man her family had chosen for her was a cleric a man of the cloth a man who had ambitions and hopes for his country Ethiopia and their home city of Gondar Yetemegnu was brought to his home where she was treated with respect but was unable to partake in childish activities She was there to learn how to cook how to look after her husband how to be a wife Due to her position she was unable to play with the local children isolating her and creating a loneliness in the heart of one so youngAs the years passed she witnessed changes in her country through wars invasions and exile As her husband’s voice got louder his position in society grew making their home a very busy one where Yetemegnu cooked and provided for the many visitors that calledWe witness her difficulties in childbirth each taking something of her away Losing some her children caused her great sorrow and she ofttimes suffered from a malady where her body felt inhabited by a spiritual being the zar When the zar was present Yetemegnu’s family knew the signs She would fall under the control of this possessive being resulting in uite a terrifying experience for all involvedAs the years passed Yetemegnu’s family grew With the Western world encroaching on their lives we see the transition and changes Ethiopia suffered famine followed by a terrible hardship for it’s people Her husband was arrested and remained incarcerated for uite some time Yetemegnu fought for his release which eventually did come but he arrived home an unwell manHer children grew up and moved away As much as she tried to keep them safe with her at all times eventually she had to acuiesce and watch them fly the coopYetemegnu’s story is written by her grand daughter a journalist who was born in Ethiopia but lived a very different life to that of her grandmother Aida Edermariam has very clear recollections of Yetemegnu a story she felt she world needed to read about The story begins in 1916 and is divided into five sections taking the reader right up to 1989 Within these sections the reader is introduced to the many difficulties and happy moments of Yetemegnu’s life alongside the monumental changes of a society and how it copedThe narrative to The Wife’s Tale can be uite difficult to follow at times as it is the voice of Yetemegnu we are hearing Also there are numerous words and tribal associations that did create a little confusion for me Aida Edemariam does include a glossary of terms and a chronology of important historical dates at the back of the book which I do feel were very necessaryThe Wife’s Tale is a personal history of a very strong brave and determined woman Yetemegnu’s courage and conviction shines through from the pages As mentioned previously it can a little hard to get to complete grips with her story at times but this could also be down to my lack of knowledge about a country that has seen such upheaval and experienced so many transformationsAn interesting and informative tale It is a book I am glad I took the time to read I was really looking forward to reading this book when I won it through GoodReads I began reading the book and it was incredibly hard to even get through about 40 pages I could not seem to follow the story It seemed to jump all over the place I finally just gave up as the book seemed to make no sense whatsoever Really disappointed Definitely will not be recommending this book to anyone See of my book reviews on my blog Literary FlitsDespite it now being well over thirty years since the infamous Michael Buerk report that showed Ethiopia's terrible famine to the world those are still the only images that flash into my mind whenever the country is mentioned There is so much to Ethiopian culture and history though and I now have a wider appreciation of daily life there through the twentieth century thanks to The Wife's Tale Aida Edemariam's biography of her grandmother YetemegnuYetemegnu lived through ninety eight years of wonderful and terrible times in Ethiopia She was married off at just eight years old making lifelong vows with no real understanding of the words she spoke to a priest twenty years older than herself Yetemegnu came of age already isolated in her husband's house Initially a frightened child cowed by his jealousy and violence her early married life seems to have been little than domestic slavery with only perhaps her religious faith to call her own Ridiculously long days spent in non stop cooking often with her baby strapped to her back and of not being allowed to leave her house for even a moment Edemariam tells us of these years through the stories her grandmother told her so there is little critical judgement It's an acceptance of tradition with no alternative choice for Yetemegnu yet I found it interesting that as this young woman begins to become stronger within herself one of the first actions she struggles for is education for her daughters as well as her sonsEthiopia changes almost beyond recognition within the space of Yetemegnu's life and as readers we get to see this overwhelming transition through her eyes including her confusion at new practices and her embracing of some new technologies She becomes a woman to be widely respected and an inspirational example for women everywhere through her perseverance and dignity I loved recognising many passages in this biography that must have been her own words repeated often to her children and grandchildren These phrases and mottoes really bring out the truth that this story recounts the life of a real woman not a fictional invention and I love that I was able to learn about her through this book

About the Author: Aida Edemariam

Aida Edemariam whose father is Ethiopian and mother Canadian grew up in Addis Ababa Ethiopia She studied English literature at Oxford and the University of Toronto and has worked as a journalist in New York at Harper’s Magazine Toronto and London where she is a senior feature writer and editor for the Guardian writing on everything from politics to literature essays on the academic nove

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