Angèle Rawiri holds the honour of being not just the first female Gabonese novelist, but the first Gabonese novelist, with her books published through the 80s. Her third novel, The Fury and Cries of Women is her best-known and most widely acclaimed. It follows Emilienne, an accomplished professional in a fictional Gabonese city, who met her husband while they were both at university in France. While outwardly successful, Emilienne is caught up in pressures from her husband (and from herself) to have a second child, especially after their daughter’s death – despite Emilienne’s pregnancies ending in painful miscarriages. Conflict with her husband over his infidelity and an antagonistic mother-in-law grows worse and more antagonistic, crossing from dysfunctional to melodramatic, and sending Emilienne into the arms of her female secretary, and things spiral from there.
It’s a really interesting book that puts a deeper spin classic “modern woman vs. tradition” trope, building on African feminism vs. Western feminism, and the inability of women to “have it all”. The afterword had an interesting discussion on “rebellious women” vs. “disobedient women” in literature, and where Emilienne crosses the line between the two. There’s also a class element here – Emilienne has her struggles intensified (but also has the ability to fight back) exactly because she is a powerful woman, who owns her home and out-earns her husband.