When the great master story teller, Sidney Sheldon, was asked why many of his books had female protagonists, his reply was that women make better characters than men. As he put it, “Make a woman the main character in a book and the story comes to life. While one may predict what a man may do in a story, the same cannot be said of a woman. Within the twinkling of an eye, a woman can change her mind, and as such change the course of a story. With women protagonists there is no dull moment.”
It was as if Razinat Mohammed had Sidney Sheldon in mind when she set out to write her short stories collection, A Love Like A Woman’s and Other Stories. Out of the eleven stories in the collection, women were the chief protagonists in nine of the stories.
Thus we have Afi in ‘Something to Live For’ Kulu in ‘Sterile Water’ Dife in ‘A Love Like A Woman’s’ Laila in ‘Laila’, Mary Rose in ‘The U-Turn’, Erika in ‘Erika’, Nina in ‘Beasts on Rampage’, Hajo in ‘Acquaintances’, and Furera in ‘Official Touts’. Out of these nine stories, the women protagonists suffered at the hands of their male partners in seven of the stories.
While Kulu and Dife died at the hands of their husbands, Laila, Mary Rose, Fuurera and Erika had no choice but to swallow all the indignities thrown at them by their unappreciative husbands or partners.
The author in the above named stories succeeded in portraying her male protagonists as inhuman, cruel and in the case of Abbas, psycholtic and murderous.
None of the men in these stories perhaps for the exception of Bassey Johnson and Mamudo showed a tinge of human feeling for their spouses.
In ‘Sterile Water’ Samaila, in spite of his joblessness and his wife’s zeal in catering for their children single-handedly, refused to accede to Kulu’s request for family planning.
Even worse was the unethical behaviuor of Vendi, the patent medicine dealer who connived with Samaila to trick Kulu by injecting her with sterile water instead of the injectable contraceptive he had promised her. The result was that Kulu, who thought she was safe got pregnant and later died from the trauma of the unwanted baby.
In ‘A Love Like a Woman’s’ nineteen year old Dife’s marriage to Abbas, a spoilt and self indulgent drug addict ended tragically. While it may be true that Abbas’s family did their best to protect Dife from the psychotic Abbas, their inability to seek medical treatment for their son is highly instrumental to Dife’s death.
In two of the remaining four stories, ‘Beasts on Rampage’ and ‘Acquaintances’ although the protagonists were female and were also badly treated, they did not suffer their own indignation from the men folk but from their female colleagues.
In spite of the seemingly bad reception these ladies received from the hands of their lovers, the truth still remains that the man/woman relationship as old as creation, will continue to dominate our consciousness for long.
In the book, Razinat Mohammed, a Professor of Feminist Literary Criticism, has shown her powerful interest in human relationships as a voice of the voiceless.
* This review is an edited version of the one produced at the book’s public presentation on December 6, 2007 at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.
A Love Like A Woman’s and Other Stories is available on Amazon.com