Book Review: Sue Nyathi's 'The Polygamist'

by - 17:17

Have I said that I absolutely love literature from Zimbabwe? Because I do. I am yet to find a novel from that country that I haven't enjoyed. And I have another one to add to the list. The Polygamist is Zimbabwean author, Sue Nyathi's, debut novel. I was sent a copy of the book by the author (thank you) and was able to read it this weekend. I'm just going to start off by saying I really enjoyed it.

Set in Zimbabwe, The Polygamist tells the story of four different women who all have one thing in common - Jonasi Gomora. Jonasi is a self-made man and one of the few richest black men in Zimbabwe. But there's only one thing he wants - women and lots of them.

There's Joyce Gomora - the loving and doting first wife of Jonasi. She thinks she has it all. She was 16 and he 21 when they met and back then he had 'N.O.T.H.I.N.G'. They rose from rags to riches and Joyce was truly, madly, deeply in love with Jonasi, until she finds out he had an affair. Then there's Matipa, who sees 'power, money and sex [as] the biggest aphrodisiacs in life'. The second Matipa sets her eyes on Jonasi, she knew she wanted him and she was going to do everything in her power to have him. But it doesn't stop there. Part way through the book, we find out Jonasi has another lady hiding in the township where he grew up. In fact you could say Essie was his first love. Essie and Jonasi grew up in the same neighbourhood and after marrying Joyce, he took Essie as his (secret) second wife. But Essie knows her place - she was second fiddle. She had been around the longest in Jonasi's life and seen girls come and go, but one thing was constant - when things were great with a new woman she wouldn't see him, but when things went sour he was back at her door expecting Essie to listen to his woes about his latest woman and also service his needs. As Jonasi gets older his insatiable appetite for women doesn't end, and he soon meets Lindani, who has one goal in life - to elevate from girlfriend to wife position. She had many "boyfriends" who gave her money for rent,  food, to get her hair and nails done (very essential in the lives of 'It' girls) and anything else she desired. After meeting Jonasi she feels she's found her answer. If only she knew ... 

The Polygamist is about these four women - their thoughts, feelings, lives - and the impact this one man has on them. At first individually, but with time (and as the secrets and lies unfold) their lives all intertwine and they are affected collectively - even Jonasi. As for Jonasi, in his own weird, twisted and warped way he loved them all, but there was nothing to like about Jonasi Gomora. Actually there was one - he adored his children (he had 8 that we knew of). Initially, you thought what a lovely man, but as the story unfolds and you get deeper into the lives of the 4 women (that we know of! knowing him there was probably more), you find out that Jonasi has no redeeming qualities. It really was all about him and his needs. As the women said - he really was a selfish prick.

I really enjoyed the novel. Sue Nyathi isn't afraid to portray African society as it is today. The truth is polygamy still exists (albeit in a different form). Along with their wives, men have mistresses, secret wives, and other random women on the side. But Sue Nyathi doesn't portray women as victims. Women too can be ruthless in their quest to find Mr. Right. I also loved the fact that Sue Nyathi wasn't scared to be frank and straight to the point. African women have desires, they have needs, and have sex (and enjoy it) and she writes about it. The women in The Polygamist swore, got even, got ruthless, but they too were flawed. Most of all The Polygamist really made me think. When you see the impact of Jonasi's polygamy and desire for women, you wonder is it really worth it, especially in the modern African society? Bearing in mind the possible consequences of multiple (usually unprotected) relationships based around money, power and sex.   

A thoroughly enjoyable debut novel and another reason why I love Zimbabwean literature - and yes I still want to try some sadza.

4 out of 5 stars. 

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