“A journey of discovery”.
A tale of self-discovery and feminist awakening.
Esi… learns to manifest her power in surprising and inspiring ways”.
The above phrases are from the blurb of The Teller of Secrets written by Bisi Adjapon. They are a prime example that summarises why I no longer read blurbs. They prepare you for absolutely nothing.
The Teller of Secrets is about Esi, a Ghanaian-Nigerian girl, her family, and the loves of her life. It follows her from age nine until university. That’s basically it.
What did I like about the book?
I found the book cover (by Ouida Books) and the writing style rather impressive. The latter was very readable, with simple words and sentences that flowed easily.
What did I not like about the book?
I’m always suspicious of novels written by ‘foreign’ West Africans. Most of the time, these books seem unnecessarily choked with things that are supposed to make it ‘African,’ and the result often looks garish to me.
The first half of this book is like that. I’m Nigerian and not Ghanaian, so this is maybe a moot point. But I felt zero familiarity with the Nigerian bits of the story, making me feel that this book wasn’t meant for me.
…the hypocrisy of her patriarchal society, and the restrictions and unrealistic expectations placed on women.
The quote above is also from the blurb. I should have considered this my first warning. I think stories built around themes are rarely good. I rather read an opinion essay than a story with a message.
That being said, there was no message passed in this novel. I think the problem is Esi, the main character and our narrator. She says everything and nothing. There are no consequences, and nobody learns anything; Esi herself remains unchanged from the novel’s first to the last pages. There’s zero character development, and every other character besides Esi are placeholders.
But again, maybe this book wasn’t meant for me for some reason…
Finally, I felt nothing while reading this book. Except maybe a bit stimulated (iykyk). This is perfectly encapsulated at the end of the book, where Esi leaves the house of her former lover- a scene that is supposed to evoke sadness, nostalgia, or something but falls flat on its face.
The Teller of Secrets has a 3.9/5 rating on Goodreads, so people kinda like it. My rating is a 2 out of 5. It’s not a bad book; I just found it disappointing.