Weep Not, Child is the coming of age story of a young man named Njoroge, whose promising future is threatened by civil unrest that brings divisions within his own community and family.
The setting is the author's native Kenya during the 1950s at a time when the native African population was pressing for equality and eventual independence from the British colonial overlords. At the beginning of the novel there is talk of a general strike to protest the low wages for African workers. When this is put down, guerrilla warfare gradually develops, and the uprising becomes known as the Mau Mau Rebellion.
As the more prosperous black families side with the white government, communities are torn apart. Njoroge and his childhood friend Mwikaki, his landlord's daughter, find themselves on the opposite side of the dispute in the manner of a Romeo and Juliet. And when his elders are implicated in the Mau Mau movement, Njoroge's cherished hopes for an education are threatened.
Weep Not, Child is a rather grim story of the fragility of the individual confronted with entrenched powers and prejudices. In some situations it is impossible to be simply an innocent bystander. One thing that surprised me in this novel was the impact of World War II on East Africa. Apparently the casualty rates among Kenyan soldiers serving in the British army were so excessive as to be a major cause of resentment in the post-war years, while military service gave a generation of Kenyans the training and confidence they needed to rise up against the British.
This is a powerful and memorable novel. My only criticism would be that it rushes too quickly through so many events, telling a story in fewer than 150 pages that should have warranted a fuller treatment.