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Ifeoma Okoye: Behind the Clouds

Ije Apia is an intelligent, educated Nigerian woman. While studying in London she met and married Dozie and supported him while he was studying architecture. When they returned to Nigeria, she worked in an insurance company, while he worked as a government surveyor. Dozie is fairly indecisive but is persuaded by his wife to go freelance and he sets up his own architectural practice. At the start of the novel, he is just beginning to make a success of it. The couple are very happy except for one thing. They do not seem to be able to have a child. Ije has numerous tests and operations. She has visited herbalists and other doctors. At the start of the novel, she is going to a conventional Western doctor who specialises in infertility. She spends a lot of money and follows the course of action he recommends but it does not work out. Meanwhile, we learn of various alternatives for the couple. We learn of a man who has taken a second wife, nominally because his position in the tribe does not allow him to have a British wife, though this seems not to be the case. The British wife leaves and returns to Britain. Ije is concerned that Dozie will be unfaithful to her and may even take a second wife. But she also meets friends who have several children (and learns the problems that that entails.) Other courses of action are suggested to her, including herbalism and faith healing.

Her mother-in-law, with whom she does not get on, not least because the mother-in-law does not consider Ije good enough for her son, wants her to go a herbalist and Dozie’s uncles encourage him to take a second wife. Meanwhile, Dozie’s practice is doing well and he has to travel frequently. Ije is persuaded to go to a faith healer by a friend who did get pregnant after visiting him and she goes to Apostle Joseph who suggests various remedies but she does not think it will work. Apostle Joseph will later suggest that the fault may not be her own but her husband’s – the first time this has been suggested – and suggests that he father a child with her. She declines, even though she learns that that is how her friend got pregnant. But everything else seems to be going well. Dozie is getting more and more business and they build a magnificent new house. And then, one day, Ije comes home to find a woman sitting in the house with her suitcases, announcing that she is carrying Dozie’s child and that she is planning on staying.

The rest of the novel is about how both Ije and Dozie deal with the situation which, naturally, is not in the same way. Of course, we have already had something of a clue as to what the problem is and how it can be resolved but Okoye lets the story run its course. It is not great literature but is still a fascinating account of a subject that is not often found in literature and clearly shows the woman’s perspective while not painting the man as an irredeemable blackguard.

Publishing history

First published 1982 by Longmans