|BOOK: The Concubine|
Author: Elechi Amadi
Publisher: Longman Publishing Group
Date Published: 1966
Reviewer: Vincent de Paul
I lost count of the number of times I gave up reading The Concubine byElechi Amadi. The book was slow (for me), the gist of the story not coming; but I persevered through the drag until I liked it (towards the end), and I can say it’s a good read.
Ihuoma, a beautiful young widow, is of exemplary character, everyone admires her; especially how she carries herself after her husband dies. Men want to marry her, to the point of obsession, especially the hunter Ekwueme. But Ekwueme was betrothed to another girl to whom he was betrothed since birth. While Ihuoma tries to push Ekwueme away, she is in love with him; but their passion is ill-fated.
Ekwueme’s wife is jealous that Ekwueme doesn’t give her the attention he gives Ihuoma, and she gets a love potion to bring Ekwueme back to her. However, the potion does more harm than good. When Ekwueme runs away from home as though possessed by an evil spirit, due to the effect of the love potion, it is Ihuoma was brings him back. And from here their passion grows, their love is accepted by all in the village, but their love is a tragic tale – Ihuoma belongs to the King of the Sea, a very jealous spirit who kills anyone who loves or tries to harm Ihuoma.
Ihuoma is a woman “of great beauty and dignity” who inadvertently brings suffering and death to all her lovers, and the King of the Sea takes no quarter even on Ekwueme who is stupid enough to dare the spirit world to a duel even if it means he dies because of his love for Ihuoma, so long as he is married to Ihuoma even for a minute. Ihuoma belonged to the King of the Sea, and she could only be a concubine to anyone else, never a wife, and that’s why her husband died, and the man who tried to assault her.
The novel portrays a society still ruled by traditional gods, offering a glimpse into the human relationships that such a society creates. It is a great read if you persevere to the end.