(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

War and its effects define the plot of The Great Ponds. The war is fought between the village of Chiolu and the village of Aliakoro over fishing rights to Wagaba Pond, one of the ponds alluded to in the title of the novel. Thirty years prior to the time of the story, Chiolu warriors won a battle with those of Aliakoro, and since then members of Chiolu have claimed Wagaba Pond and fished in it without hindrance. Aliakoro villagers, however, have begun to poach in the pond, and Chiolu sends a war party to catch the poachers.

Olumba, the main Chiolu warrior, heads the party. They catch two poachers and almost a third, Wago the leopard-killer, the chief Aliakoro warrior.

The conflict soon escalates. In the first major battle, Ikechi, a young Chiolu warrior and Olumba’s protege, kills his first opponent and is initiated into the company of his colleagues. Aliakoro wins the next battle, however, with the aid of the Isiali village, whose warriors kidnap four Chiolu women, among them Oda, Olumba’s pregnant youngest wife, and Chisa, Eze Diali’s daughter, whom Ikechi wants to marry.

Beyond working out the ransom for several of those taken by both sides, the highly ritualized conferences between Chiolu and Aliakoro (conducted by the chiefs and elders of each village or their delegates, with input from warriors such as Olumba and Wago) fail to solve the issue of Wagaba Pond. The war becomes so serious that no one in either village is safe and the daily routine in both deteriorates.

Chiolu and Aliakoro belong to the Erekwi clan, and the other villages that constitute the clan come together to keep the war from spreading and to bring an end to it. They set up a peace conference between the warring villages, at which Olumba, offering himself to the ritual whereby property disputes are commonly settled, swears by Ogbunabali, the god of night, that Wagaba Pond belongs to Chiolu. If Olumba is alive in six months,...

(The entire section is 799 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Emenyonou, E. The Rise of the Igbo Novel, 1978.

Library Journal. Review. XCVIII (June 1, 1973), p. 1842.

The New Yorker. Review. XLIX (January 21, 1974), p. 84.

Niven, Alastair. The Concubine: A Critical View, 1981. Edited by Yolande Cantu.

Publishers Weekly. Review. CCIII (March 19, 1973), p. 61.

Spectator. Review. CCXXIII (September 20, 1969), p. 374.