The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam review – portrait of a mother goddess

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Edemariam deftly traces her grandmother’s life in Ethiopia, taking in Haile Selassie’s feudal reign and Marxist dictatorship

In this elegant account, Aida Edemariam has sketched her grandmother’s life in an Ethiopia that shifted, within 50 years, from feudal monarchy to Marxist dictatorship. We first meet Yètèmegnu in the years before the Italian invasion in 1935, as a child of nine betrothed to a cleric more than two decades her senior. It is with a deft, subtle touch that Edemariam portrays both the contemporary celebration of the event and the deeper tragedy of it.

Born into a landowning family in the Gondar region in the north of the then Abyssinian empire, Yètèmegnu boasts distant royal connections. Within her small, pastoral world she is treated as a noble; her larder brims with crops from her husband’s peasant-tilled fields.

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