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Publisher's Summary

In this indelible memoir that recalls the life of her remarkable 95-year-old grandmother, Guardian journalist Aida Edemariam tells the story of modern Ethiopia - a nation that would undergo a tumultuous transformation from feudalism to monarchy to Marxist revolution to democracy, over the course of one century. 

Born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar in about 1916, Yetemegnu was married and had given birth before she turned 15. As the daughter of a socially prominent man, she also offered her husband, a poor yet gifted student, the opportunity to become an important religious leader. 

Over the next decades Yetemegnu would endure extraordinary trials: the death of some of her children; her husband's imprisonment; and the detention of one of her sons. She witnessed the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia and the subsequent resistance, suffered Allied bombardment and exile from her city; lived through a bloody revolution and the nationalization of her land. She gained audiences with Emperor Haile Selassie I to argue for justice for her husband, for revenge, and for her children's security, and fought court battles to defend her assets against powerful men. But sustained, in part, by her fierce belief in the Virgin Mary and in Orthodox Christianity, Yetemegnu survived. She even learned to read in her 60s, and eventually made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 

Told in Yetemegnu's enthralling voice and filled with a vivid cast of characters - emperors and empresses, priests and scholars, monks and nuns, archbishops and slaves, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents - The Wife's Tale introduces a woman both imperious and vulnerable; a mother, widow, and businesswoman whose deep faith and numerous travails never quashed her love of laughter, mischief and dancing; a fighter whose life was shaped by direct contact with the volatile events that transformed her nation. 

An intimate memoir that offers a panoramic view of Ethiopia's recent history, The Wife's Tale takes us deep into the landscape, rituals, social classes, and culture of this ancient, often mischaracterized, richly complex, and unforgettable land - and into the heart of one indomitable woman. 

©2018 Aida Edemariam (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 07-15-18

A Look At Ethiopia

This is a bit different type of memoir/biography. The author tells the story of her grandmother, Yetemegnu Mekonnen, who was born in Goudar, Ethiopia in 1916. She was married at age eight to a man who was almost thirty years of age. Edemanam’ s writing is in a beautiful rhythmic prose. The description of the country, superstitions, and customs of early twentieth century Ethiopia is superb. I almost felt as if I was there during the Italian invasion. Toward the end of the book, she told of the moment that the “chicken scratch in the book became understandable words” as she was learning to read absolutely fascinated me.

The book is almost ten hours. Adjoa Andoh does an absolutely fantastic job narrating this book. It is her narration of the book that brought the story to life. I do not think the book would be as meaningful by my reading it. Andoh did the Ethiopian women yell which I could never do even in my mind. Andoh is a British actress and voice-over artist. She is also an Earphone Award- winning audiobook narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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No plot or story

What would have made The Wife's Tale better?

There is no plot or story to this book, no compelling reason to come back and listen more. Some books pull you in right from the beginning and this book never did that. It is just day to day happenings. I think it had the potential to be much more. I would not purchase again.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful