2000 - 2007

Not Without Flowers by Amma Darko

Not Without Flowers

Five words from the blurb: women, Africa, dilemmas, confronting, social

Not Without Flowers gives an insight into Ghanaian culture; raising interesting discussions about polygamy, the treatment of mental health and HIV, and the difficulties faced by an ordinary family trying to raise enough money for a decent funeral.

The book begins with a distressing scene in which those with mental health problems are found chained to the floor, having been beaten by witchdoctors attempting to rid their bodies of evil spirits. It then goes on to introduce a man with five wives. He commits suicide after discovering that he has HIV and the family have to deal with the double grief of his death and his diagnosis.

I loved the way the book introduced me to many issues I was unfamiliar with. The emotions associated with polygamy were particularly interesting:

Many wives who suspect their husbands of having extra marital affairs usually pray for one thing, especially when they know they can’t stop him or what is going on. They pray that they never see nor hear nor smell the affair. She had. She had seen her, had heard her and had smelled her at her workplace and in her bedroom. But in this society where polygyny is a norm, how is a wife to receive adequate sympathy and understanding for a pain she must be suffering as a result of a husband’s unfaithfulness? The pain itself, that she is feeling, is doomed and becomes her failure. She is expected not to feel that pain at all. She is supposed to feel lucky enough to be the one wearing his ring, which should enable her to bear his little pleasures.

Unfortunately I found the book disjointed. Individual scenes were fantastic, but the plot jumped around between a large number of people and so it was impossible to bond with any individual. Things improved towards the end, but I would have preferred the story to concentrate on a fewer number of characters.

The book also contained some surrealism that I didn’t understand. Dreams seemed to come true and there were some potent symbols and visions that clearly had meanings I was unaware of. I think a greater knowledge of African mythology would improve enjoyment of this book, but I guess that will come from reading more books like this one.!

I’m pleased that I read Not Without Flowers because it introduced me to many new themes and ideas. It is a perfect choice for Ghanaian Literature Week and I recommend that you head over to Kinna’s blog in order to find out much more about literature from Ghana.


11 replies on “Not Without Flowers by Amma Darko”

I have a close friend from Ghana who was raised in a polygamous household. She told me one thing which really surprised me, which is that the newborns were all taken from their natural mother at birth and given to one of the other wives to raise. Presumably the point of this was to try to make all the members of the compound live as a single family rather than a series of nuclear units in competition with one another. This seemed harsh to me, but of course my friend felt unaffected by this as she had been brought up in an environment where this was normal practice.

Neil, Yes, there were so many aspects of their society that I was unfamiliar with. It was really interesting for me to read about how their different way of life impacted them as so many of the moral dilemmas just wouldn’t happen here. It made me think about some things for the first time and I love that!

Jackie, this is a great review and I agree with you that the book or narration is disjointed. I felt the same when reading it but you have put it more accurately than I could.

If you have time you could visit my blog for review of the book.

I’ve read a few books lately that have seemed a little disjointed but I usually just plow forward and hope that the ultimate plot reveals itself. I’d read this to try to broaden my knowledge of Ghana (of which I know NOTHING!)

Sandy, If you want to broaden your knowledge of Ghana then this is a great choice! I’m sure you’d be able to get through this one and work it all out 🙂

Thanks Jackie for reviewing the Not Without Flowers and for participating in Ghanaian Literature Week. I haven’t read this one by Amma Darko but I think her best books include her first novel, Beyond the Horizon (which I’ve reviewed), and Faceless. I’ve been meaning to read Not Without Flowers for ages.
The quote is spot on.

Thanks again.

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