The Shadow King
By Maaza Mengiste
This book is in its essence an exercise of imaginative remembering as it starts with the line ‘She does not want to remember but she is here and memory is gathering bones.’ An unforgettable rewriting of the history of women who have been erased from Ethiopia’s victories. It is especially
powerful in that it shows the battles that women in the book from Hirut, the guard of the shadow King; to Aster, the wife of a military commander; a woman simply named ‘The Cook’ and a high end sex worker named Fifi; face in the war that occurred due to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.
All these women make active efforts to resist the invasion of the Italians. This is, however, not the only battle they have to fight as they also need to fight against sexist norms in the patriarchal society that they find themselves in. Mengiste beautifully articulates how these two battles are always intertwined for the women and it is inevitable that they will be fighting on both fronts at all times.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste is a lyrically written book with magnificent imagery – a true feat of historical fiction.