A FINALIST FOR THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD: The true story of one indomitable woman caught in the tumult of an extraordinary century in Ethiopia, The Wife's Tale has the sweep and lyrical power that captivated readers of Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone.
A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over her lifetime her world changed beyond recognition. She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She endured all these things alongside parenthood, widowhood and the death of children.
The Wife's Tale is an intimate memoir, of both a life and a country. In prose steeped in Yetemegnu's distinctive voice and point of view, Aida Edemariam retells her grandmother's stories of a childhood surrounded by proud priests and soldiers, of her husband's imprisonment, of her fight for justice--all of it played out against the rhythms of the natural world and an ancient cycle of religious festivals. She introduces us to a rich cast of characters--emperors and empresses, scholars and nuns, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents--and through these encounters takes us deep into the landscape and culture of this many-layered, often mischaracterized country.
AIDA EDEMARIAM, who is of dual Ethiopian and Canadian heritage, grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She studied English literature at Oxford University and the University of Toronto, and has worked as a journalist in New York, Toronto and London, where she is a senior feature writer and editor for the Guardian. She is a recipient of a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for a work of non-fiction in progress, and lives in Oxford.
WINNER OF THE 2019 ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE 2018 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR NON-FICTION
“The Wife’s Tale is beautifully written, carefully researched and richly imagined, an exquisite blend of memoir, fiction, poetry and invocation. This is a book I shall constantly re-read as well as recommend to everyone I know who loves literature.” —Michèle Roberts, RSL Ondaatje 2019 Judge
“With a keen attention to the senses—the smell of mint in the garden, the pings of rain off a metal roof—Edemariam laces together the history of woman and country in such a way as to make one indispensable to the other.” —The Walrus
“Aida Edemariam has shot an arrow through time, and landed it in our one, shared heart. The Wife’s Tale captivated me from the first scene, left me dizzy with details that ring so true they entered my dreams. It is a rare book, not just for the beauty with which it is told, but because you live through a character who has seen more than one person ought to bear. What shines so clearly through this book though, is the love and bravery of a remarkable woman.” —James Maskalyk, author of Life on the Ground Floor
“The Wife’s Tale is the extraordinary memoir of a woman who lived through the cataclysmic events that shaped modern Ethiopian history. The narrative, which is lovingly and expertly put together by her granddaughter, is a window into a world that would otherwise be invisible to us.” —Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
“The Wife’s Tale is a remarkable achievement: meticulously researched, finely wrought and deeply felt, it is the story of one woman’s life lived, not so much against the backdrop of history, but in the midst of it. Aida Edemariam’s grandmother succeeded in building a life out of very little, except her enduring, quiet courage.” —Aminatta Forna, author of The Memory of Love
“The Wife’s Tale is unique, above all for its brilliant combination of big historical vistas with vivid physical details of life in Ethiopia. I became completely mesmerised by it, and found myself carried deep into its other world, with all its beautiful customs and strange cruelties and enduring loyalties. It is an exceptional biography.” —Richard Holmes, author of The Age of Wonder