First of all, I would like to thank the person who bought this book to my attention. May God Bless you and your children for several generations. I am being a bit dramatic here, but it’s only because I really love this book. The only two things I knew about Benin, before, was Cotonou and King Gbehanzin. We learned in primary school of the kingdom of Dahomey and of course, of King Gbehanzin. I think the king resists French colonization or something like that. Now thanks to this author, I know a whole lot more. My guilty pleasure is reading historical novels, anything historical. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the setting of this novel was none other than 1800’s kingdom of Dahomey. I really love to be surprised by books that I don’t know nothing about.
But first, as usual, a word about the author
About the author
Nike Campbell-Fatoki was born in Lvov, Ukraine to Nigerian parents. She spent her formative years in Lagos, Nigeria, listening to stories and folktales told by her maternal Grandparents. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Howard University and a Master of Arts degree in International Development from American University, Washington, DC. Presently, she is a Budget and Finance Manager in the municipal government in the Washington DC area. She is an avid reader. She loves traveling, watching movies and listening to music. She lives in the Washington DC area with her family.
About the book
Amelia, daughter of the last independent King of Dahomey, King Gbehanzin, is the apple of her father’s eye, loved beyond measure by her mother, and overprotected by her siblings. She searches for her place within the palace amidst conspirators and traitors to the Kingdom. Just when Amelia begins to feel at home in her role as a Princess, a well-kept secret shatters the perfect life she knows. Someone else within the palace also knows and does everything to bring the secret to light. A struggle between good and evil ensues causing Amelia to leave all that she knows and loves. She must flee Dahomey with her brother, to southwestern Nigeria. In a faraway land, she finds the love of a new family and God. The well-kept secret thought to have been dead and buried, resurrects with the flash of a thread of gold beads. Amelia must fight for her life and what is left of her soul. Set during the French-Dahomey war of the late 1890s in Benin Republic and early 1900s in Abeokuta and Lagos, South-Western Nigeria, Thread of Gold Beads is a delicate love story, and coming of age of a young girl. It clearly depicts the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversities.
Now you must be dying to know why I really like this book? And why you should read it?
Here are 10 things I adore about Threads of Gold Beads:
- The cover: I love the cover of this book. I could literally visualize Amelia with her wrapper and gold beads just because of that illustration!
- The setting: 19th century Africa. I wish I could read books about pre-colonial Black Africa every day of my life. kudos to Ms Campbell-Fatoki for writing about that period. One thing I found very interesting was the fact that some parts of the country were already under French colonial rule while others were still independant.
- The details: The author is a genius at details. I bought myself plenty of books, just to try to get a sense of life before the white man came to Africa. So I am thrilled to report that this novel does it very well. A lot of work was definitely done on that side. The avid and attentive reader that I am, did appreciate it a lot. The description of the palaces, the wedding ceremony, the villages, the market, the clothing was done with great details.
- The female warrior: I finally got to read a novel about the female soldiers of the great king Gbehanzin. I absolutely adore the way they were portrayed: Fearless, courageous, sometimes ruthless but still women. For instance, they were a scene describing them are normal women when they are off-duty.
- Africa uncovered: I don’t know if this was intentional, but the author shows us the really bad side of pre-colonial Africa. I really appreciated the fact that it was done without any of kind of judgment or western bias (Yep, you can be black and have a western bias!). We, as Africans, have to admit that although the kingdom of Dahomey and his king Gbehanzin were great, some aspects of their life was less so. For instance, I am thinking of the human sacrifices, the women forced to be soldiers very young, the war between two African kingdoms and the slaves taken afterwards ( this was done to extend the kingdom), the women priestess forced not to marry and instead dedicated their lives to the different Gods, war prisoners sold into slavery overseas…
- My Favorite character Ms Titilayo: Strong independent and beautiful woman, even in 1895! Who ever say African women were weaklings! Please read this book. Of course, I love Amelia’s character too. But I was most impressed by her aunt.
- Magic & Ancestral religion: Magic was and is still present in our lives. As an African, from Senegal, I am proud to know that some of our customs and ancestral religion have survived through times. The way magic and the ancestral religion were portrayed in this novel just remind me so much of my country’s beliefs and customs. Now, some part of the country were already converted to Christianism. We get to see christians trying to convince others to join the new religion. Again, the struggle between Christianism and the ancestral religion is portrayed very well. For example, You see people who go to church but still visit the medicine man for protection…Now that’s my Africa!
- Evil white man: They are a lot of evil forces in this novel. But, the White man is really the greatest of all. If you had any doubt about that, after reading this book you will be convinced once and for all, particularly with a very awful scene.
- Love story: Beautiful love story. Amelia and Dossou. I never expected these two to reunite. And I am sure when you read the novel you won’t either. But you know what they say about TRUE LOVE, it never dies.
- Suspense & intrigue :They are a lot of enigmas in this novel. the novel keeps the reader enthralled from beginning to end. Amelia is the favourite daughter ok King Gbehanzin and the only child of her mother. For some reasons,bad things happened to her all the time.
Now over to the aspect that I like less:
- The Language: Some words, of a language I assumed to be Fon, was not translated, so I had no idea what they mean. Could have check on google translate I supposed but I am lazy!
- The map: The map in the beginning of the book was a great idea but it was not that readable. I wish they were a better one. But again, I don’t think they are a lot of map of that period around. So maybe, this one was really the best.
- The shift: When the kingdom of Dahomey falls, Amelia left for exile. Unfortunately, the story never really goes back to the Kingdom. I assume that one of the reason is that there were no Kingdom to go back to. But I got attached to some of the early characters : the mother, the brother Akaba…
I obviously recommend this very interesting book. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Did you read this book? What did you think?
You convinced me that I need to find and read this book.
Interesting review.. I have had this book in my TBR for a while now.. not a lover of historical novels though. If you really enjoyed this novel.. I would recommend you to read Ama by Manu Herbstein, another historical novel, I am yet to read.
A wonderful review; Ndeye.