So it was almost two full moons after I had received an autographed copy of Royal Kiss, before I found time to read it.
It had been a hard day at work, I had come in and expressed an opinion on the trending #WifeNotCook and then a Facebook escapee from the slimebeds of insanity, decided to take a swipe at some perceived dents in my “character” to wit: single mother, divorcee; and took off on a frankly uninspired rant of drunken hifalutin bigotries.
Distracted from work by the constant notifications from a Facebook roforofo I wanted nothing of, I went into the study in search of something to read and saw my copy of Royal Kiss propped up on the shelf.
My first thoughts were: read this until I drift off to sleep, but ever heard the word “impossible”?
Royal Kiss is unputdownable.
It is the story of one little girl’s determination to rise above the stigma and status society had unwittingly placed on her through no fault of hers, and be someone to reckon with within her community.
Little Nkem is the daughter of a woman who had chosen to raise her daughter all alone after a hasty separation from her husband.
Tarred with the single parent/divorce/prostitute – the third being a tag which comes with the status of being either of the first two even in Modern day Nigeria, Nkem’s mother was focused on seeing her daughter rise above all those tags and be someone those who had mocked her and her mother’s lifestyle, would be forced to look up to.
In order to achieve that, she schemed and tried all within her power to see her daughter married to the Crown Prince of Umuebo Village.
In one thing, her desires and ambitions were in tandem with her daughter’s, the need to be recognised and where they had been shamed in the past, celebrated.
The only divergence in both ambitions, was that Nkem wanted to make it, with or without marriage (if you say feminist, na you sabbe).
She loved the Prince and would have loved to be the next Queen of Umuebo, but she loved education more.
And so when she saw that her mother’s schemes to get her betrothed to the Prince were beginning to gather steam to an extent that her mother would not hear of her enrolling in the secondary school at Onitsha where she had just gained admission on scholarship, Nkem was faced with a dilemma.
Stay on in the village, get married and get forced respect; or chart her own course irrespective of what challenges she might face in the future and earn that respect?
Her mind set, Nkem woke up one morning, packed a few clothes in a bag, and ran away to the city.
In her absence, the Prince’s betrothal and engagement ceremony went as planned and another bride was contracted for him…
But what happened to Nkem? Did she fulfill her dreams of being someone whom the village could look up to? Did the Prince live happily ever after with his new bride? Did Nkem’s mother ever survive the betrayal by her daughter? Was it one up for womanity or did Nkem realise that you cannot win a fight against culture and tradition and return to the village “ormbled”?
Well, the answer to that question, is in the book.
Several times over the course of reading Royal Kiss, I had to pause and check the cover again to ensure I was not reading something written by Buchi Emecheta.
The lengths and depths to which Royal Kiss ventured in exploring themes, cultures and traditions, belief in the gods and their influence in the lives of men was commendable.
The style is reminiscent of epic novels that take you on a reluctant yet captivating trip through the oft discarded culture of the Igbo, as portrayed in the small waterside community of Umuebo.
The tussles over land, the expectations of partners in a marital relationship, the communal enforcement of morality codes and a host of others.
Euphemia’s highly descriptive style also helped to convey the imagery of the people, and brought the characters vividly to life.
You could empathise.
In one minute, you were Nkem, wondering how you were going to escape a well deserved flogging from your mother and in the next, you were Ugomma her mother, struggling to live above society’s expectations (or lack of them), from you as a single parent.
I could relate to everything… Almost.
There were two major conflicts for me in the book, I struggled to resolve the internal conflicts I felt as I read, but it is of immense credit to the author that through it all, you see where she is going with it and grudgingly accept that while you may not agree, it is not about you but about the bigger audience.
The first was in the stereotyping of Ugomma as a woman of easy virtue. I felt that was too cliché, the single mother who in order to make ends meet, has a variety of patrons who provide her money and other material benefits.
But then, like I mentioned earlier, in Nigeria being a single mother and a divorcee is not just a catch 22 situation on it’s own, it comes with a free burden.
Extra load for you to carry.
Whether you like it or yes!
Especially if you are like us, irritatingly vocal on issues that those who think you have “fallen from grace” as a single mother, should shut up about.
And yes, this in 2017 Nigeria.
But still, it would have been one thing for me if she was just tagged and slurred a woman of easy virtue, and another to actually BE it.
Secondly, as soon as Ugomma’s first lover died of a “mysterious illness” sent down from the gods early enough in the book, as a sabbe babe, I knew whotsup…
Person wey waka anyhow, don see anyhow.
So somehow, when Ugomma fell sick “mysteriously” alongside her most ardent lover, I smirked and threw one or two of my best judgements their way.
Surprise surprise, we had to drag in the mystical and jujulistic somewhere down the line with Ugomma’s mysterious illness blamed on someone else, and her regaining her health after the culprit’s death, while her accomplice and lover died.
Hello!!!!! HIV education opportunity missed by miles?
This pankere that I have soaked for Euphemia, abeg wait small make I add Cameroon pepper to the kerosene it is soaking inside.
Then again, the book was set in 1970s Nigeria and here I am reading it with a 2017 mindset and thinking HIV. In that era and in a village as remote as Umuebo in the 1970s, it was a near impossibility. See why I said that however much you wanted to disagree, the brilliance of the author was such that you saw reason as soon as you got past the fences you had put up in your mind.
Again, these are just my opinions on what I felt was a mighty marvellous read after all and there were two pieces of good news that came shortly after:
1. The book is being considered for inclusion in the secondary school’s literature reading list.
2. The first edit of the book is currently ongoing. Rest assured when it is done, you’ll also read a review here.
Okay, before we wrap this up and wish you a “happy sortahdei”, here is a chance to win a copy of Royal Kiss.
We have two of them to give away:
In the comments section ????? , please pen down your opinions on girl child education, why you think EVERY girl deserves a chance to go through the education cycle (nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary) and which you think should be of greater importance to the girl child: education or marriage.