The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah

Date Read: June 23rd 2018

Published: May 2018

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Pages: 234

The Blurb

Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that turns her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father’s court. These two women’s lives converge as infighting among Wurche’s people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the 19th century.

Set in pre-colonial Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga is a story of courage, forgiveness, love and freedom. Through the experiences of Aminah and Wurche, it offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people.


Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I would rate The Hundred Wells of Salaga 4.5 stars in a heartbeat, but I’m rounding up my rating to 5 stars. Ayesha Harruna Attah has grown soooo much as a writer and this third novel is proof of her wonderful growth. The Hundred Wells of Salaga is very well researched and I’m ashamed at how little I knew about the internal slavery within the continent during the 1800’s. It’s amazing how we Ghanaians know very little about our country – I had no idea what or where Salaga was. While I was reading, I fervently looked for more information on Salaga and slavery of Northern Ghana and came across this video on YouTube – SALAGA: An Ancient Slave Trade Center. It’s an excellent 19 minute, short documentary on the ancient slave trade center. Enjoy!

I just love that this historical novel opens up conversation around – internal, trans-Saharan & trans-Atlantic slave trade, amongst readers. This novel opens up the wounds of our past and shows how complicit we were the in our greed for power through the fragmenting of families. The Hundred Wells of Salaga forced me to examine how many families in Africa (and Asia) currently practice modern forms of ‘slavery’ through the use of ‘house helps’ or ‘house girls’ and the effects of this modern practice.

All of Ayesha’s novels have been great reads for me because she creates well-rounded characters. Typically, the chapters of her books are dedicated to the characters, so the storyline is propelled through the lens of the different characters of her books; I was excited to see this technique used in The Hundred Wells of Salaga.

Aminah and Wurche’s characters were great contrasts – while Aminah’s character was calm, kind and obedient; Wurche was confident, pleasantly arrogant and ambitious – my type of gal, to be honest! Ayesha gets readers acquainted with Aminah and her family to the point where it feels like Aminah’s family is our own. Reading Aminah’s chapters felt a bit grime and I had this feeling of doom and fear as the story progressed. Ayesha manages to personalize slavery through Aminah’s character, and readers feel the hurt and vulnerability it caused ordinary folk.

Wurche’s chapters were the vehicle that drove the feminist narrative in this novel. Readers see first-hand how women (more so Wurche) were used to push the agendas of domination, through arranged marriages and other acts of coercion; and the various acts of rebellion the brave women took. Readers start to understand the legacies of slavery in Ghana through Aminah and Wurche, and get acquainted with other characters like – a German, who ideally would be seen as the big, bad colonizer, an Ashanti slave owner (Wofa Sarpong) and many other personalities who challenge our values. Islam plays an interesting role in this novel – I loved the dichotomy of how it was used to teach values, but also regulated the lives of women, which affect Wurche’s headstrong nature.

Ayesha did an excellent job with The Hundred Wells of Salaga! I truly hope this book is sold in Salaga or bookshops, museums and historical sites in Northern Ghana. It’s a necessary resource.

The Hundred Wells of Salaga has been acquired by Other Press (USA) and will be published February of next year (image on the right – how beautiful is the book cover?! It was illustrated by the talented Loveis Wise). The book also has translation rights in Dutch (bottom left image), French, German, Italian and Turkish!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase The Hundred Wells of Salaga on Amazon

Check out my book reviews of Ayesha H. Attah’s other novels:

13 thoughts on “The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah

      1. Actually, thanks to SomaliBookaholic, I did already know that Africans were themselves complicit in the slave trade. He recommended a book called Squadron, Ending the African Slave Trade ( which is about how the British navy intervened after abolition to prevent the trade persisting. It’s written from a British POV, but the author is an historian and the documents make it quite clear that there were powerful African traders and rulers who were still trading with other countries.
        But the thing about the video that brings the words of the book to life, is things like that bath. The traders wanting to clean up their ‘product’ before sale. That’s just ghastly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for that link!
        What I meant was – people must know about SALAGA and the slave trade there. We all already know Africans were complicit in the trans-Atlantic Slave trade, but few know about the different slave centers within Ghana, like Salaga in the North.
        I hope you can read the book soon; there are more ‘ghastly’ scenerios in it, but its an excellent story.


    1. Hi Celestine! Thanks for reading the book review. The Hundred Wells of Salaga is different from Homegoing. From the blurb, you might think they are similar novels, but they are very very different. I hope you get to read this book soon!


  1. I’ve been trying to resist adding new releases to my wobbling TBR but your reviews of her books really make me want to read Ayesha Harruna Attah’s work! The Hundred Wells of Salaga has me intrigued because I haven’t read much fiction that examines the 19th century Atlantic slave trade from the point of view of the “ordinary folk” in West African port countries. And when I think of the slave trade, I think of men – and not women – as being the primary orchestrators, perpetuators, and resistors. I’m going to check out the video, now. Thanks again, Darkowaa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel you, Leslie. Keeping up with new releases gets very, very tiring. One of my goals for next year will be to curb my reading of new releases to a maximum of 3 books a year. But yes, this novel focuses mostly on the 2 women and how they coped with the trans-national slave trade of present-day GH. I hope you get a chance to indulge in Attah’s work sooner than later! Thank you for reading the review 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This novel transports the reader into another time and place, precolonial Ghana, where the surprising brutality of native cultures enslaving each other creates a crisis in the lives of two women. One is a pure innocent, savagely torn from her family and sold to a brutal man, the other a powerful leader’s daughter, a fierce young women who has grown up knowing only honor and respect. Yet in an increasingly dangerous political climate, both become oppressed in body and spirit and only when their lives cross does the chance at freedom appear. The author’s words, at once plainspoken and poetic, charge the senses and bring the vibrant country and culture vividly alive. The passion and longing each woman struggles to conceal, overcome, express, and finally to use has unchanged. The world created here rings with truth, of Ghana’s hidden past and in the hauntingly beautiful account of two women whose feelings awaken a belief in the triumph of the human spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

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