Book Review: ‘Ada’s Realm’ by Sharon Dodua Otoo


Book Title: Ada’s Realm
Author: Sharon Dodua Otoo
Publisher: MacLehose Press
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-1529419023
Date Published: Mar. 28, 2023
Price: INR 600

Ada's Realm by Sharon Dodua Otoo Book Cover

Book Review

Sharon’s extraordinary and ambitious book “Ada’s Realm” transports readers on an enthralling voyage through time and space. The book covers diverse historical eras and geographical regions via the stories of four people with the same name, Ada, weaving together a tapestry of hardship, resiliency, and comedy.

The story introduces us to Ada in several forms over the millennia. In 1459, we meet Ada number 1, a young mother in the Ghanaian fishing hamlet of Totope who cruelly watches her newborn child’s death. Ada number 2 appears in a German detention camp during the dreadful days of Nazi control in 1945, when she is forced to sex worker herself.

Ada number 3 debuts in 1848 Stratford-le-Bow, England, as a married woman and skilled mathematician embroiled in a secret romance with a prominent English writer. Finally, in 2019 Berlin, we meet Ada, a pregnant Ghanaian migrant looking for a place to call home. A golden bracelet binds these three women together. As a result, the plot concentrates on the complex adventure spanning four continents.

Subsections of the book expertly move readers between Totope, Polish and German concentration camps, and Stratford-le-Bow. This fluid transition between times and settings kept me engrossed and reminded me of the work of my favorite novelist, Octavia E. Butler. The author expertly conveys the multiple experiences of women throughout history by placing the Adas in numerous environments, surrounded by different cultures, languages, and historical situations such as European colonization and the advent of Nazism.

While trauma and parenthood are central themes, the Adas are not shown as victims but as courageous, misunderstood, and powerful women. As a result, the narrative of the four universes is captivating and exciting.

Ada’s Realm” highlights linguistic diversity by including Ga, Twi, German, English, and an archaic English dialect. The work is laced with Ghanaian idioms and references that will ring recognizable to anyone familiar with Ghanaian culture. The meanings of these words were flawlessly integrated into the book, encouraging readers to interact actively and uncover the answers.

The book’s interpretative flexibility, with various names in different nations, is also noteworthy. In Germany, it is known as “Ada’s Raum,” while in the United Kingdom, it is known as “Ada’s Room.” This adaptability extends to Ada’s name pronunciation, allowing for different interpretations and cultural ties.

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While the passage of time adds complexity to the tale, it occasionally causes difficulties in identifying the narrator since the ubiquitous voice does not always belong to Ada. Nonetheless, this feature prompts reflection on the difficult balance between artistic expression and historical authenticity and the study of gender roles.

Ada’s Realm” is a daring and vast work that combines history, humor, and human experiences in a seamless manner. Sharon’s superb storytelling fascinated me from beginning to end, and I finished the book in only four days. The transitions between important times and the subtle portrayal of the Adas’ interactions with the men in their life are most readers’ favorite passages, maybe?