Genre: Novel, Y.A
Published by Kwadwoan Publishing, The Twelfth Heart, won the 2009 Burt Award for African Literature, a pan-African prize that promotes and celebrates excellence in youth fiction.
Mercy Tiwaa Gyemfi, the narrator, has just arrived in Accra to attend St Felice Mixed Senior High School. Her choice of school is mainly driven by a desire to escape Aboagyekrom, the poor, idle, uninteresting village that until now has been her home. We are told that in Aboagyekrom, ‘nothing ever happens there’ and that ‘even the newspapers get there a day late’. (p2)
At her new school, Mercy is assigned to Morton House. It is this house (or more precisely a picture of it) that had captured her imagination back home in Aboagyekrom, way before she ever stepped foot in the school. The picture, which she had seen on a book front cover, showed the wide, green, lawn in front of Morton House with grass as smooth as a carpet and green as the leaves on a mango tree.
“There was no place in Aboagyekrom that looked so green and well kept,” Mercy had wondered as she looked at the picture. (p3),
In a bid to fit in with her new surroundings, Mercy chooses to only associate with the well-off girls in her dormitory.
Readers, who have attended boarding school will, likely, identify with Mercy’s antics and those of her friends. As the book plays out, we encounter familiar stories that remind us of our own school days – stories of students teasing others, meeting and making friends with the opposite sex, helping each other during class tests, and running away from campus without permission, to mention but a few.
And as one would expect, not even the teachers are spared. The object of ridicule in this case is Mr. Manu, the Mathematics teacher, who mispronounces ‘s’ as ‘th’. In one of the class sessions, he tells his students: ‘Thith assethment will take one hour… I have a thtaff meeting, so I have to leave you. Pleath work quietly and independently.’ (p50)
Baitie’s The Twelfth Heart is also very much about love and friendship, in that no matter how much the students tease or look down on one another, there clearly is an overriding mutual love hidden in their hearts .
Baitie is a relatively new voice on the Ghanaian literary scene, who fully deserves the recognition she has received for her writing so far. Prior to winning the Burt Award for The Twelfth Heart , Baitie received the Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa in 2006 for an earlier book, Saint in Brown Sandals .