Oftentimes when you read the historical account of wars, you seldom hear about the role women play. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste does the exact opposite: it IS the story of women, set in 1935, during the Mussolini-led invasion of Ethiopia.
The Shadow King is the story of Hirut, a young household servant of the wife (Aster) of one of the officers in Haile Selassie’s army. As the war goes under way, Aster decides to rally the women together – to help during the war. Hirtu joins the band of women and fights with the gun her father left her. Maaza Mengiste finds the right balance between the over glorification of war, and under-selling the reality of what was a terrible time. Hirut is an unforgettable character; she is bold, resilient and yet, her humanity is bared for the reader to see.
It is for this reason that BellaNaija has chosen Maaza Mengiste’s new book, The Shadow King, as Book of the Month for November 2019.