Silence please, for The Girl With The Louding Voice

A review of Abi Dare’s The Girl With The Louding Voice

Lockdown number three, a wet and cold start to 2021……reading has been an essential luxury this Winter.

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare was a Christmas present from my husband. I picked it up half way through January and struggled to put it down again until I finished it. Set in Nigeria (where part of my heritage originates), told from the point of view of a girl who will inspire you and break your heart in equal measure, it’s a great read and one that carries important messages.

To describe the plot of this book, it’s the story of a teenage girl in Nigeria, Adunni, who loses her Mother. The death of her mother mean that shortly after, she also loses her opportunity to go to school. At the mercy of her father’s decisions, she follows the path of many of her peers, getting married to a much older man, with other wives already, to bolster her families finances.

(No spoilers…) the friendships she makes along her journey take her to unexpected places that force her to leap frog onto an even more challenging and terrifying path. But Adunni never loses sight of who she wants to be, a girl with a “louding voice”. A woman who walks into a room and is recognised, who speaks and is listened to, and who makes a positive impact on the world.

Through a level of resilience I don’t think I would be able to muster, she goes through the motions of what she needs to do to survive. She works as a “house maid” in a wealthy woman’s Nigerian mansion. She is subjected to beatings, sexual assault and her salary never makes it into her own hands. In secret, she dedicates herself to learning to read, thanks to the support she finds and nurtures. She uncovers the haunting mystery of the house maid who came before her and documents some crucial moments in Nigeria’s history as she tells her story.

The Girl With The Louding Voice is a thriller, a social commentary, a call to arms and carries a motivational message about education and equal rights. It’s also a love story. Not a romance, but a true love story about self respect, self love and self care.

I found a lot about The Girl With The Louding Voice uncomfortable to read. I didn’t enjoy facing into certain facts about Nigeria; extreme poverty in stark contrast to the incredible wealth of the few, corruption and ill treatment of women, especially young women. It’s hard to think of how others live their lives, just a few steps removed from my own.

On top of the gripping plot, Abi Dare also opens our eyes to challenging topics including people trafficking, modern day slavery, rape and under age sex. This is reality and hard as it is to hear, we need to know about it. Abi tells it in a way that compels us to lean more.

The Girl With The Louding Voice is a story that’s also full of hope, however.

It centres on the power of friendship, the importance of sisterhood and the resilience we find inside ourselves when we really need it.

So many of us are struggling at the moment. This third lockdown is taking its toll on the strongest of all of us. The character of Adunni teaches us that we are stronger than we realise. She also never stops reading and that brings her joy, education and empowerment.

These closing thoughts of strength and the power of literature, mean a lot to me and I hope, to you too. Please keep reading. Keep learning. And stay strong. We can make it through the tough times and emerge stronger than before.

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