this is the highly subjective way I read and interpret literature
(the emphasis lies on literature, so you'll only find a couply of trashy readings here and there)
First of all, I am not sure how I stumbled across Under the Udala Trees. As a novel by a contemporary African female writer about a lesbian Nigerian girl growing up during the Biafra civil war, this checks a lot of boxes, but nevertheless it isn’t really something I would normally pick up. Maybe it was a subconscious effort to expand my literary horizon beyond the borders of Europe, Russia and North America or to read more books by female authors or more contemporary works? I don‘t know. But here we are.
Initially, I thought I liked Under the Udala Trees, but as I progressed, my enthusiasm slowly started to vanish until the end of the novel when it just dragged on and on. I noticed, that a lot of other readers have had issues with the protagonist Ijeoma being too young to have sex or to talk about marriage. But come on… Even though 13 might be a bit young, I am sure we all had at least one friend who actually lost his/her virginity at that age, this is by no means absurd. Also keep in mind that this part of the novel is set in Nigeria in the late 1960’s / early 70’s when girls were primarily brought up with the goal to get them married and have children asap. So, considering the setting, 13 to 14 year old pubescent girls talking about marriage is also not absurd.
But there’s something about Ijeomas age that actually made the novel weird for me as well, because there is an enormous discrepancy between her age (somewhere between 12 and 14) and the language in which her thoughts, feelings etc. are conveyed. Her direct speech was absolutely fitting, but the narrative parts were rendered so logically and eloquently, it was ridiculous. There is no way a teenager could argue like her, the thought processes were just way too mature and thus, there was this huge gap between plot and discourse that bothered me so much.
And talking about the initial maturity of the protagonist… while she was incredibly mature in the beginning, the older she got, the more childlike she became (childlike in the sense of helpless, depending on her mother a lot, letting others control and dictate her life). I was also no fan of this development.
Her mother was a pretty one dimensional character as well, although I found her just hilarious, especially during the Bible lessons. I know those chapters should have been tragic, but her mom interpreting every biblical story in order to show her daughter that heterosexuality is the one and only way to live was so damn stupid, it became funny.
But besides all of the above mentioned, Under the Udala Trees is still a relevant novel, if only to remind readers about the consequences religion and strong (and very outdated) traditions have on the daily lives of everyone who dares to challenge these norms.