Cover image for The family
Title:
The family
Author:
Emecheta, Buchi.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : G. Braziller, 1989.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780807612453

9780807612507
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A Jamaican girl joins her parents in London at age eleven and makesformidable adjustments and choices to overcome the limitations of herfamily life.


Summary

The story of a young Jamaican girl, Gwendolen Brillianton, who is born into poverty and deserted by her parents when they emigrate to London. Being reunited with her parents and the siblings she has never met does not end her problems, and she realizes she must must fight her family and take control of her own life in order to recover from abuse and take pride in her self. Originally published as Gwendolen.


Author Notes

Buchi Emecheta was born in Lagos, Nigeria on July 21, 1944. She emigrated to London, England in 1960. She received a sociology degree at the University of London. She worked as a social worker for a number of years and contributed a column to the New Statesman about black British life.

She wrote 20 novels during her lifetime including The Joys of Motherhood, The Rape of Shavi, Second Class Citizen, Into the Ditch, The Bride Price, and The New Tribe. Her first play, A Kind of Marriage, was screened on BBC TV in 1976 and was adapted into a novel in 1986. Her autobiography was entitled Head Above Water. In 2005, she was made an OBE for services to literature. She died on January 25, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Buchi Emecheta was born in Lagos, Nigeria on July 21, 1944. She emigrated to London, England in 1960. She received a sociology degree at the University of London. She worked as a social worker for a number of years and contributed a column to the New Statesman about black British life.

She wrote 20 novels during her lifetime including The Joys of Motherhood, The Rape of Shavi, Second Class Citizen, Into the Ditch, The Bride Price, and The New Tribe. Her first play, A Kind of Marriage, was screened on BBC TV in 1976 and was adapted into a novel in 1986. Her autobiography was entitled Head Above Water. In 2005, she was made an OBE for services to literature. She died on January 25, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 8

Booklist Review

When her parents immigrate to England, Gwendolyn remains in her small Jamaican village with her grandmother. It's a hard life; they constantly worry about money, yet they are rich in friends and have an active social life revolving around their church. When Gwendolyn is molested at the age of nine by a family friend, her small, loving world is shattered, and she eagerly anticipates the move to England, where she rejoins her parents. And though her life there is better in many ways (just as her village friends predicted), the coldness of the climate and the people is hard to get used to. Then her life takes a familiar, sickening turn when her own father forces her to have sex. She soon becomes pregnant, but, ironically, in her darkest hour she begins to find the inner strength and purpose to forge a better, more independent life. Emecheta's touching portrait of a resilient teenager is shot through with telling social commentary, and her formal, cerebral prose style is softened by the silky patois of native Jamaicans. --Joanne Wilkinson


Publisher's Weekly Review

Although her characters speak in authentic patois and authoritatively convey the grim travails of a dysfunctional emigre family in England, Emecheta's novel is sapped by polemic and an overkill of disaster. When her mother joins her father in London, Gwendolen is left behind in Jamaica, where she is sexually abused by a male friend of her grandmother; disclosure of her crime only brings the child resentment and ridicule. Eventually, Gwendolen's parents send for her, and she arrives in the ``Moder Kontry'' to care for her younger siblings and receive an education. But school is a hardship: ``What nobody realized was the price her dignity as a person was paying. Those who made society's laws are still a long way from knowing that Gwendolen's inability to speak or understand one brand of the English language did not automatically condemn her to be an imbecile. But to keep a school like hers running smoothly and with less friction for all concerned, it was easier for her to be regarded as one.'' Further humiliations follow when Gwendolen's father molests her, rages when he learns he is not the first to do so, and eventually impregnates her. A Nigerian native living in England, Emecheta wrote The Joys of Motherhood. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In Emecheta's latest novel, complex societal, moral, and emotional issues are played out through the life of young Gwendolen Brillianton. We meet her at age six in a Jamaican mountain village as her father emigrates to London and say good-bye at a triumphant age 16 after she's fought for survival and identity through a sequence of cruel events that include subjugation, rape, and incest. Her family's need to escape economic poverty has led to a new poverty--a moral malaise within a dissociated nuclear family. However awkward the narrative structure may appear, Emecheta is here exploring new territory. Her narrator, unlike its dispassionate Western counterpart, takes an active role by commenting on events and stating opinions--a practice evolving out of the oral tradition of the African griot that is also reminiscent of the Greek chorus in Western literary tradition. A native of Nigeria who has lived in England since 1962, Emecheta is the author of several novels, including The Rape of Shavi ( LJ 3/1/85). Her newest is a fine addition to any library.-- Veronica Mitchell, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

The Family (published in Britain as Gwendolen) is Emecheta's 11th novel in almost two decades of writing. Here as elsewhere a keen sociological imagination is at work, focusing on several issues that have been all but ignored in fiction. The novel is about the silencing and powerlessness of London's black emigre population, about the difficulty of holding a family together, and about the experience of one child, Gwendolen. Sexually molested at the age of eight by a family "friend" and later made pregnant by the father she adores, Gwendolen twice experiences the transformaton from victim to family pariah. Abandoned to poverty shared with her grandmother in Jamaica, at age 12 she joins her parents in London, too old to be assimilated as daughter or as schoolgirl. Illiteracy, an overburdened school system, pervasive racism, and cultural divisions between West Indians and Africans in London contribute to her own and her family's isolation. The task of establishing, often too hastily, the social world of working-class black immigrants in London competes with the novelistic interest in developing characters and in particular the relationship between a mother and daughter, thrust out of traditional roles by their cultural dislocation and the fact of incest. Suitable for general readership and for collections on the African diaspora. P. Alden St. Lawrence University


Booklist Review

When her parents immigrate to England, Gwendolyn remains in her small Jamaican village with her grandmother. It's a hard life; they constantly worry about money, yet they are rich in friends and have an active social life revolving around their church. When Gwendolyn is molested at the age of nine by a family friend, her small, loving world is shattered, and she eagerly anticipates the move to England, where she rejoins her parents. And though her life there is better in many ways (just as her village friends predicted), the coldness of the climate and the people is hard to get used to. Then her life takes a familiar, sickening turn when her own father forces her to have sex. She soon becomes pregnant, but, ironically, in her darkest hour she begins to find the inner strength and purpose to forge a better, more independent life. Emecheta's touching portrait of a resilient teenager is shot through with telling social commentary, and her formal, cerebral prose style is softened by the silky patois of native Jamaicans. --Joanne Wilkinson


Publisher's Weekly Review

Although her characters speak in authentic patois and authoritatively convey the grim travails of a dysfunctional emigre family in England, Emecheta's novel is sapped by polemic and an overkill of disaster. When her mother joins her father in London, Gwendolen is left behind in Jamaica, where she is sexually abused by a male friend of her grandmother; disclosure of her crime only brings the child resentment and ridicule. Eventually, Gwendolen's parents send for her, and she arrives in the ``Moder Kontry'' to care for her younger siblings and receive an education. But school is a hardship: ``What nobody realized was the price her dignity as a person was paying. Those who made society's laws are still a long way from knowing that Gwendolen's inability to speak or understand one brand of the English language did not automatically condemn her to be an imbecile. But to keep a school like hers running smoothly and with less friction for all concerned, it was easier for her to be regarded as one.'' Further humiliations follow when Gwendolen's father molests her, rages when he learns he is not the first to do so, and eventually impregnates her. A Nigerian native living in England, Emecheta wrote The Joys of Motherhood. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In Emecheta's latest novel, complex societal, moral, and emotional issues are played out through the life of young Gwendolen Brillianton. We meet her at age six in a Jamaican mountain village as her father emigrates to London and say good-bye at a triumphant age 16 after she's fought for survival and identity through a sequence of cruel events that include subjugation, rape, and incest. Her family's need to escape economic poverty has led to a new poverty--a moral malaise within a dissociated nuclear family. However awkward the narrative structure may appear, Emecheta is here exploring new territory. Her narrator, unlike its dispassionate Western counterpart, takes an active role by commenting on events and stating opinions--a practice evolving out of the oral tradition of the African griot that is also reminiscent of the Greek chorus in Western literary tradition. A native of Nigeria who has lived in England since 1962, Emecheta is the author of several novels, including The Rape of Shavi ( LJ 3/1/85). Her newest is a fine addition to any library.-- Veronica Mitchell, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

The Family (published in Britain as Gwendolen) is Emecheta's 11th novel in almost two decades of writing. Here as elsewhere a keen sociological imagination is at work, focusing on several issues that have been all but ignored in fiction. The novel is about the silencing and powerlessness of London's black emigre population, about the difficulty of holding a family together, and about the experience of one child, Gwendolen. Sexually molested at the age of eight by a family "friend" and later made pregnant by the father she adores, Gwendolen twice experiences the transformaton from victim to family pariah. Abandoned to poverty shared with her grandmother in Jamaica, at age 12 she joins her parents in London, too old to be assimilated as daughter or as schoolgirl. Illiteracy, an overburdened school system, pervasive racism, and cultural divisions between West Indians and Africans in London contribute to her own and her family's isolation. The task of establishing, often too hastily, the social world of working-class black immigrants in London competes with the novelistic interest in developing characters and in particular the relationship between a mother and daughter, thrust out of traditional roles by their cultural dislocation and the fact of incest. Suitable for general readership and for collections on the African diaspora. P. Alden St. Lawrence University