Une si longue lettre (or So long a Letter) is a book hard to describe. It is basically a long letter written by the female protagonist (with a long name I cannot remember) to her best friend (who also has a long and complicated name I would have to look up).
The letter is about the mortification after her husband left her after 25 years of marriage with 12 (omg yes, 12!) children, because he married a girl who is a classmate of one of his own daughters. Polygamy was actually (and still might be, I don’t know, the book was first published in 1980) a common problem in the overall Muslim society in Senegal, because according to Muslim law a man can have four wives at the same time – and the only one who seems to bother is his (first) wife.
The letter is an expression of her struggles, her loneliness and also her feeling of being completely lost and at the same time a way of coping with everything, because she addresses it to a friend who understands her (due to a similar fate). It is a very honest account, not shying away to confront the reader with the very ugly truth concerning the ruthless treatment and unequal social status of women, yet at the same time without complaining about it. In that way, Une si longue lettre is very touching and emotional.
It is also a book about the disparity of traditional and modern life for a Muslim woman. While many women strive to be independent and try to raise their children in a more open and more tolerant way, society as a whole is still stuck in old traditions and in a very outdated lifestyle which is imposed upon those women again and again.
Reading Une si longue lettre absolutely amazed me. It was wonderful to read about a courageous woman who is above everything true to herself and I cannot think of any other book which is as severe, yet at the same time so human and brims over with so much love on every page.