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Gitau Githinji (London, UK)

Page: 1 | 2
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It does not work, 10 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
I bought this book without having read a single review of it solely because it was written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have read all of her previously published books and been enormously impressed by each one. Ms Adichie is a hugely talented writer; her use of imagery, for instance, is better than that of any author I have read in many a long year. Who can help but smile at the artistry in the construction of a sentence like this: "There was in Kayode's demeanour, a withdrawal of spirit, a pulling back of his army of warmth, because he sensed very well that she had made the choice to shut him out."

Unfortunately - and this I write with considerable regret - I found "Americanah" to be a deeply disappointing book. Put simply, it does not work. Ms Adichie has attempted to blend a sometimes tender love story spanning two decades and three continents with an incisively written essay on race. Sadly, she has been spectacularly unsuccesful.

The lead characters, Ifemeleu and Obinze, are childhood sweethearts who are separated for thirteen years by distance. Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to complete her studies in America where she discovers that she is black. This discovery opens her eyes to the true character of American people which she extensively explores in a blog amusingly called "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) by a Non- American Black". Meanwhile, Obinze manages to get to London on a visitor visa which he overstays. He then joins the "underground" world of the illegal immigrant doing menial jobs while also learning about what it means to be an African in Europe. Ifemelu eventually returns to Nigeria and reestablishes contact with Obinze.

The first quarter of this overly long book was the only part of it which I enjoyed. The depiction of Ifemelu's world in Nigeria, her family and friends and her journey towards an all-consuming love affair with Obinze was cleverly put together, at times very funny, engaging, warm and a joy to read. The next 300 or so pages, which chronicle Ifemelu's discoveries about race in America, while containing ingenious observations (for example, about the never-ending trouble black women seem to have with hair), seemed to carry on for far too long hammering away at the same point over and over again. "Is this is a story?" I kept asking myself, "and if it is, where is it going?"

The final part of the book and its rushed, fairy-tale ending bordered on the ludicrous. An intelligent, self-assured young lady returns to Nigeria after thirteen years of self-discovery in America and falls back in love with her childhood sweetheart, who is now married and a shady, well-connected businessman (about which she has no qualms). I am sorry Ms Adichie, pull the other one!

Ms Adichie should have written two much shorter books separately: a love story and a rant about race in a collection of essays. Bolting the two together was a big mistake which her editors should have shooed her away from making.

I am a huge fan of Ms Adichie's work and look forward to reading her next book, but if you are looking to read a good book by her, avoid this poor, overcooked effort and get hold of "Half of A Yellow Sun".

Black Ghosts
Black Ghosts
Price: £4.74

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 25 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Black Ghosts (Kindle Edition)
When I read A Fragile Hope (Salt Modern Fiction) a few years ago, I came to the easy conclusion that Kamoche was a master of the art of the short story. Easy, because I appreciate how difficult it can be to get a short story right and thought A Fragile Hope had pretty much nailed the form. Few writers, though, are able to achieve mastery in both the art of the short story and that of the novel. Some, like Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham leap readily to mind, but I have to think hard to remember many more. Now that I have read Black Ghosts, I have no hesitation in acknowledging that Kamoche has joined the hallowed ranks of writers who are able equally to distil their art into a story spanning a few pages, or spread it evenly across the broad canvas of a novel.

An epic piece of work, Black Ghosts is written on a grand scale. Blimey, I thought at about Chapter 3, Kamoche is going for it hugely here!

Written in the first person, Black Ghosts follows the tumultuous life of Dan Chiponda over three decades across two continents and numerous places in both. The action is fast-paced; so much so that Black Ghosts sometimes reads like a thriller. I would tell myself to read just one more chapter before switching off the light and going to sleep, but found I would end up reading three or four.

Chiponda is a keen Zimbabwean student who looks forward to studying in the West. He dreams of spending snowy winters in Canada but, to his horror, receives a scholarship to study in China. His worst fears about this mysterious communist country in the East are realised when he finds himself studying in Nanjing where Africans are anything but welcome. The Nanjing Chinese are none too subtle in their naked racism: people hiss "hei gui" ("black ghost") at the slightest provocation and deeply despise the presence of government-funded Africans in their midst. Nevertheless, Chiponda finishes his studies and goes on to work in Hong Kong while stumbling from calamity to calamity and experiencing joy and misery in equal measure. The one bright spark in his life is his girlfriend and then wife, Lai Ying, through whom he eventually comes to acknowledge that China has become his home.

Kamoche cleverly peppers his narrative with significant events from the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st: the Tiananmen Square catastrophe; the East Timor massacre; the Y2K mystery computer bug; Zimbabwe's descent into hell; the Rwanda genocide. All these, and numerous others, are so seamlessly weaved into the story that one feels as though one is living through them all over again. Scenes are captured in vivid detail: if Chiponda is dining in a restaurant in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Harare, not only do we know what the food smells and tastes like, we also see, through Chiponda's eyes, exactly what there is to be seen on the way there. It is this attention to detail which makes Black Ghosts such a delightful read.

Kamoche is clearly very fond of travelling. His observation of places, scenes and sounds is so discerning, I get the feeling that there is a travelogue on China somewhere inside him aching to get out. Until then, we have Black Ghosts to savour.

Black Ghosts should be high on anybody's list of books they must read some day. It is, quite simply, superb.

Cakes And Ale
Cakes And Ale
by William Somerset Maugham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maugham revels in the art of writing, 7 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Cakes And Ale (Paperback)
I first came across William Somerset Maugham at the age of sixteen when I chanced upon a heavily annotated copy of his masterpiece "Of Human Bondage" in my father's study. He had read it many years before while studying English at university. The copy I picked up was my father's old university study one, but he retained it in pride of place and returned to it often decades later. Being young and unblemished by the heartache sometimes caused by intense and irrational love, I was deeply moved by the character of Philip Carey and his tribulations at the hands of the loathsome Mildred. When I learned many years later that "Of Human Bondage" was largely autobiographical, my heart went out to Maugham.

In "Cakes and Ale" Maugham makes only the slightest of attempts at disguising its autobiographical nature: for Willie Maugham, we have Willie Ashenden a middle-aged, wealthy and successful author; Blackstable takes the place of Whitstable (as it did in "Of Human Bondage"); and Maugham's own youthful infatuation with the libertine Sue Jones is reflected in the character of free-loving Rosie Driffield - she of the "body made for the act of love" - with whom the young Ashenden falls in love.

When asked by his author friend, Alroy Kear, to contribute to his forthcoming biography of a celebrated novelist called Edward Driffield, Ashenden revisits in his mind a good part of his early adulthood during which he knew Driffield and others associated with him and shares it with us. First, we are treated to his musings upon the bucolic life he spent in Kent as a boy in his late teens. Later we see the happy times he enjoyed in bustling London as a young medical student. During both phases, Ashenden encounters a variety of people at various levels of class-ridden Victorian and Edwardian society whom he describes with sympathy and warmth, when pleased by them, or with brutal vitriol when not.

Although raised as a gentleman by a vicar uncle who was an extreme snob, Maugham resents snobbery and lampoons it in "Cakes and Ale" much as he did in his delightful short story "The Outstation". There are echoes of the hilarious way in which Maugham depicts the ridiculous snob, Mr Warburton in "The Outstation" in Mrs Barton Trafford the conceited lady who befriends Edward Driffield in "Cakes and Ale". You can almost hear Maugham laughing at them. Nevertheless, Maugham reveals much empathy for people like these perhaps because he acknowledges that he is cut from the same cloth as they are. As Willie Ashenden tells us, "It is very hard to be a gentleman and a writer."

I got the impression from "Of Human Bondage" that Maugham found writing it to be a wrenching, if perhaps cathartic, experience. "Cakes and Ale" is a much happier read. Contentment and a zest for life wafts off the pages like expensive French pefume. As we learn from Selina Hastings in her excellent biography, "The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham", "Cakes and Ale" was written in 1930 in Maugham's sumptuous home, the Villa Mauresque on Cap Ferrat, at the time in his life when he was happiest and most content. It is hardly surprising then that Maugham described "Cakes and Ale" as his favourite among his many novels; writing it was undoubtedly a very enjoyable experience for him.

In "Cakes and Ale" Maugham bares his soul as a writer and gives several descriptions of the art of writing which are as plausible as any I have ever read. "Whenever [the writer] has anything on his mind, whether it be a harassing reflection, grief at the death of a friend, unrequited love, wounded pride, anger at the treachery of someone to whom he has shown kindness, in short any emotion or any perplexing thought, he has only to put it down in black and white, using it as a theme of a story or the decoration of an essay, to forget all about it. He is the only free man."

I came to the end of "Cakes and Ale" with much regret that there wasn't more for me to delight in. Like "Of Human Bondage" on my father's bookshelf, "Cakes and Ale" will forever remain in a treasured spot on my bookshelf within easy reach. For I would be lying to myself if I said I will not be reaching for it again and again in the future.

The Heart Of The Matter
The Heart Of The Matter
Price: £3.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you will want to read again and again, 4 Aug 2011
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The Heart of the Matter achieves the rare feat of being a riveting page-turner and, at the same time, a thought provoking, serious novel. It is curiously reminiscent of George Orwell's Burmese Days. In both books the hero is an English colonial official in a tropical country with a harsh, unforgiving climate. Each of John Flory of Burmese Days and Henry Scobie of The Heart of the Matter stands out from his contemporaries because of his inherent goodness, his sense of belonging in the colonial outpost and his lack of condescension towards the natives. Where the two novels differ is the fact that The Heart of the Matter is essentially a book about Catholicism.

Scobie is a the Deputy Commissioner of police in a nameless, underdeveloped country in West Africa during World War II. For fifteen years he remains scrupulously honest and incorruptible despite ample opportunity for self-enrichment in the murky commercial environment of the colony. Business is conducted by thoroughly dishonest Syrians who love nothing better than a bent policeman in their pay. Notwithstanding many entreaties from Yusef, a fat, unscrupulous Syrian merchant, Scobie keeps himself clean.

He feels trapped in a loveless marriage to Louise, a pathetic, unattractive, tearful woman, who causes him nothing but anguish. His stern Catholicism does not permit him to contemplate divorce from her and he suffers feelings of guilt about being in some way responsible for her piteous state. Louise's continual weeping and moaning about her unhappiness and the bitter feelings of pity this evokes in Scobie leads him down the path towards self destruction. To ease her suffering - and his own - Scobie compromises his high principals and takes a loan from Yusef to send Louise to South Africa.

In Louise's absence, Scobie falls in love with yet another pathetic woman called Helen Rolt - Scobie seems incapable of falling in love with a woman unless he pities her - and by so doing seals his fate.

Scobie is a complex character imbued with contradictions. He does not like to cause suffering but yet is a senior police office officer in a West African colony; he yearns solitude and peace but yet can't bring himself to untangle the mess his life is in between two damaged, needy women; he is a strict Catholic who believes in eternal damnation but yet commits mortal sin and cannot seek absolution by making confession; he pities a man who has committed suicide and then by his own hand places himself beyond the reach of God's mercy.

The Heart of the Matter explores the extent to which pity and love can come into conflict with the strictures of the Catholic Church. Scobie is a good Catholic who is bitterly tormented by the enormity of his sins. He feels he has failed the women he loves, himself and even God. In the end he comes to accept that God is powerless to protect him from eternal damnation and offers himself up as a sacrifice for Louise, Helen and God himself.

Like he does in The Power and the Glory and The End of the Affair, Graham Greene forces one to rethink Catholicism. Is God's mercy powerless in the face of the rules of the Church? Can God protect and forgive the persecuted and weak, however sinful they may be? If suicide, for instance, is so damnable, what about God's own suicide on the Cross?

Greene offers no answers to these questions. Instead he has given us a book to delight in and think about over and over again.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2013 7:23 PM BST

Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics)
Coming Up for Air (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orwell at his funniest and most autobiographical, 12 Aug 2010
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If you only read the apocalyptic misery of 1984 or the gut-wrenching descriptions of extreme squalor in Down and Out in Paris and London and A Clergyman's Daughter, you would probably have little hesitation in describing George Orwell as a cheerless writer. He certainly has an impressive faculty for depicting human suffering in graphic detail but, from the evidence of this book, that is clearly not all that he does.

There is more, much more, to Orwell than gloom. In Coming up for Air we are treated to sunny passages of a happier, funnier Orwell. This book is truly sublime.

The chief protagonist, George Bowling, is a fat, middle-aged bloke who is trapped in a life he loathes with a nagging wife from whom he cannot escape. He longs for the joys of his country childhood when he enjoyed simple pleasures like walking through beautiful English fields and woods and indulged in the thing that gave him more pleasure than any other: fishing. All the while he is worried that everything he holds sacred is about to be destroyed forever by yet another pointless war not long since he has survived active service in World War I.

The powers of description displayed by Orwell in painting vivid pictures of the landscape of Bowling's childhood are truly breathtaking. In these one can see that Orwell is being autobiographical.

Writing in the first person, Orwell brings out emotions in Bowling which all of us are sometimes guilty of possessing. Who can truthfully say that they have never felt like Bowling and wanted to escape the stifling drudgery of modern living, however briefly?

If you haven't already done so, do yourself a favour and read a copy of this charming novel. Like its title, reading it feels like coming up for air.

Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles
by Richard Dowden
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicate balancing act, 4 May 2009
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Richard Dowden suffered the misfortune of being held responsible for an ill-advised cover of "The Economist" about a decade ago. The cover depicted a teenage African boy wielding a heavy weapon and suggested that the entire continent was a lost cause.

Dowden has redeemed himself by writing this excellent book. It does not pretend to be anything more than an introduction to a continent in which he has spent much time and knows intimately. Conscious of being accused of taking too broad a brush to a vast and very varied continent, Dowden explains in the book that his audience is not the Africa veteran; rather, it is the dismissive European who, like that stupid "The Economist" cover, thinks of Africa as a place beyond redemption.

This was a very difficult balancing act to perform and I congratulate Mr Dowden on having done a marvellous job. Now what he must do is a Winston Churchill: break it all up and write every last detail, there's a good chap, Richard!

It's Our Turn to Eat
It's Our Turn to Eat
by Michela Wrong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.94

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overdue insight into a misunderstood country, 1 Mar 2009
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This review is from: It's Our Turn to Eat (Paperback)
For anyone with an interest in Kenyan politics or recent African history, John Githongo's whistle-blowing story is not news in March 2009. The story first broke in January 2006 and caused something of a small storm in the pages of newspapers in the UK and a hurricane across Kenya's intelligentsia. It was, therefore, with bewildered curiosity that I approached reading "It's our turn to eat". I wondered why Ms Wrong thought Githongo's story - about being a corruption-excoriating journalist , to government anti-corruption czar, to frustrated fugitive in fear of his life - was not, by the standards of this insatiable journalist worth any more than a column in a sensibly selected liberal newspaper or political journal. But, no, Ms Wrong felt this story and its context to be so important that she chose to use it as her third vehicle in (what I see as becoming) her treatise : "Africa, a dysfunctional continent".

Having read her first two books with much enthusiasm, I was puzzled. Kenya is a much photographed and written-about country. It is instantly familiar to people throughout the world mostly for its sandy beaches, volcanic lakes teeming with birdlife, vast savannas and snow-capped mountains. I couldn't see what there was to write about in Kenya for a fearless journalist who was physically present braving bullets at the collapse of the Mobutu regime in the then Zaire and who managed to dig into the entrails of Eritrea's tortured history. Surely, I thought, there were more interesting, more challenging places to investigate than Kenya. After all, even taboo subjects like Mau Mau had been picked over and exhaustively examined by Westerners like Caroline Elkins and David Anderson. I was hopelessly wrong.

In "The Godfather", Don Vito Corleone instructs his burly lieutenant, Luca Brasi, to investigate a potential business partner with circumspection. "See what he has under his fingernails," says the Don. This is exactly what Ms Wrong has done with Kenya. In her research into the country, she refused to take anything or anybody at face value. In so doing she managed to unearth truths about the country which will make uncomfortable reading for most Kenyans and their many friends. She paints a picture of an unremarkable African country in thrall to a tribal community with ideas well above its station. A country stupidly refusing to accept that it is teetering ever more precariously on the edge of a vast abyss from which there can be no return.

John Githongo - a close friend of Ms Wrong who will, I am sure, have winced at her description of his sometimes uncaring dismissal of her time (the expression she uses for being ignored by John is being "Githongoed") - turns out to be the unlikely hero of Kenya's long ignored masses. Unlikely, for Githongo belongs to a significant minority of Kenyans: its Kikuyu middle class.

Despite being repeatedly Githongoed, Ms Wrong gets underneath the fingernails of this self-important mass of people and learns things about them and their country which have, until now, been conveniently ignored. What she is able to capture in "It's our turn to eat" is the thing which escaped President Kibaki and his clique of "wazee" (old men) when they chose to select Githongo - a man whose own credentials were beyond reproach - as their disguise; the clean face to show the world while they carried on "eating" behind the scenes.

In assuming that Githongo thought like they did, the wazee forgot a fundamental point. The education and lifestyle John Githongo's parents had afforded him set him well apart from them; he thought in ways they would never understand. His generation did not grow up in a village running about barefoot. They were weaned while watching Rupert the Bear on television, learned to read through Ladybird's Janet & John, swapped Enid Blyton novels in primary school with their friends and were more likely to look upon Biggles than Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi (a Mau Mau warrior) as a hero. Githongo's parents (and their contemporaries) might have done the best by their children but in so doing they had ensured that forever more their children were not like them.

Ms Wrong picks this up expertly. She is cannily able to identify that people of Githongo's ilk are more relaxed having a conversation in English than Kikuyu, more likely to switch television channels to the BBC than listen to a heavily Kikuyu-accented minister like Chris Murungaru and more desirous of a holiday in New York than a sojourn in Muranga. The purple prose employed by former British High Commissioner, Sir Edward Clay, would not have been lost on the likes of John Githongo. He and his friends probably sniggered into their sleeves while the wazee cringed at Clay's cheeky employment of his version of A.A. Milne's "The King's Breakfast". This is the perfect whistle blowing generation. And it took a muzungu (white person) journalist to pick this up. Shame on Kenya!

This book has more in common with her first, "In the footsteps of Mr Kurtz", than it does with her second, "I didn't do it for you". Unlike the latter, a scholarly historical work, this book is about capturing a moment in time, attempting to place it in its historical context and imagining what the future may hold for a country.

Best of all, Ms Wrong, much like she did in "In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz", peppers her work with vignettes of personal experience: she was one of the journalists warily present at the chaotic victory celebrations in Nairobi in January 2003 and was there when Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret exploded in January 2008. In reading her book, one gets the feeling of watching a pot of explosive ingredients slowly bubble away. By the last chapter, the lid has blown off the pot and Kenya is engulfed in flames.

I would hate to describe Ms Wrong as a Jeremiah but if this book is not taken seriously, there is no telling what may happen to Kenya.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 29, 2009 3:02 PM BST

When A Crocodile Eats the Sun
When A Crocodile Eats the Sun
by Peter Godwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely moving - a jolly good read!, 2 Dec 2008
Upon finishing this magnificent piece of work, my mind was curiously turned to another book by an African writer which I also read this year and which has the word "sun" in its title. I remembered the haunting novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie "Half of a Yellow Sun". While the latter is a fictionalised account of events taking place in her native Nigeria well before she was old enough to know about them (the Biafra war), "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" is a harrowing personal journey through Zimbabwe, a country sliding, nay, hurtling down an abyss of a dictator's own making. Both books have the same powerful message: glittering hope can so easily be extinguished and replaced by utter despair.

Godwin, who has made a life for himself and his family in New York, observes the increasingly harrowing death of a much beloved country through the eyes of his loving parents and friends. Each time he returns to Zimbabwe is more painful than the last. He watches the implosion of his country while coming to terms with an irretrievably altered New York after 9/11. Through Godwin's vivid imagery, the beauty of Zimbabwe leaps off the page at you and yet you hold yourself back from wanting to go there. You know it will be too painful to see.

You watch the author's heart slowly break as his parents drift from prosperity and security to penury and hopelessness as they become old and frail. Your heart bleeds for him as he has to witness the agonies of his parents as his mother struggles to cope with heavy surgery and his father's legs literally rot beneath him. All the while he is having to come to terms with newly discovered certainties about who and what he really is.

As if their daily battles with insecurity and hyperinflation are not bad enough, you suffer with Godwin as his elderly parents are regularly fleeced by their own staff; people whom they have literally raised through life.

Godwin will probably never write a more personal account than this. I cannot see how that would be possible for any human being.

I loved this book and it is after a great deal of thought that I have denied Godwin his full compliment of five stars. Irrespective of who his ultimate audience is, there is never an excuse for generalising about a continent as large and varied as Africa. Why repeatedly write about "returning to Africa" or "spending another night in Africa" when you really are talking about Zimbabwe?

Godwin never writes about his plane landing in "Europe" when it touches down in London or even "the United States of America" when speaking about his home in New York. For a person who calls himself a white Zimbabwean, this is unforgivable behaviour. This is what causes suspicion about white immigrants in the minds of indigenous Africans. To paraphrase, it is the reason that the white man lives in "Africa" with his bags packed. He sees a continent of more than fifty countries in ridiculous and offensive monochrome. If a highly educated person born and raised in Zimbabwe can wilfully do this, why should Sarah Palin be vilified for not knowing that Africa is a continent?

Is Zimbabwe exactly the same as its neighbour Botswana? Is being in Zimbabwe exactly the same as being in Mali? I am sure the answer a seasoned global journalist like Godwin would give to both of these questions is "certainly not". Why spoil your masterpiece in such a lazy and irresponsible manner then, Mr Godwin? Contrast this with "Half of a Yellow Sun". Ngozi Adichie does not resort to this ridiculous shorthand: she writes about Biafra specifically because that is the country her book is about.

Notwithstanding this, I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone who would like to know more about the mess Robert Mugabe has made of a country he once professed himself to love.

Better still, read "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun" because of that best and most old fashioned of reasons: it is a jolly good read!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2008 11:59 PM GMT

Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keenly observed and very engaging, 8 April 2008
This review is from: Half of a Yellow Sun (Paperback)
Half of a Yellow Sun is an excellent read. Easily my favourite novel this or last year.

Chimamanda has a gift for human observation. Her descriptive style is compelling and the characters sometimes cleverly invite you into their worlds. One often has to remind oneself that the author, being as young as she is, cannot have lived to see as much of life as her work represents.

I understood Odenigbo and Olanna perfectly but found Ugwu a little contrived. This is not to say he is not likeable: Ugwu is, without a doubt, the central character in this rich dramatis personae. He makes you laugh and cry far more than anybody else. Still, it is difficult to believe that an African houseboy - in a continent where labour is cheap and expendable - can occupy such a central part in the life of a family while growing up with little regard for his own future. Richard was the least believable of all. He was, for me, a cartoon character. A shallow Englishman suddenly finding himself a journalist deeply wrapped up in a war which has nothing to do with him takes a greater leap of the imagination than I was capable of making. I liked the detachment of Kainene and the supreme confidence of Madu.

The pages describing the war are clearly where the author had to do the most work. It is difficult to tell that she did not live through the war herself. A novel about a forgotten war written by an authentic Igbo is exactly what was needed - not another paternalistic travelogue/history book from yet another European "discovering" themselves and their writing skills in Africa's turbulent history. Brilliant.

You cannot read this book slowly - it is far too fast-paced for that. I will be looking out for more of Chimamanda's work; she has a superb future ahead of her.

A delightful surprise awaits you at the end. Lovely twist!

A Fragile Hope (Salt Modern Fiction)
A Fragile Hope (Salt Modern Fiction)
by Ken N. Kamoche
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling ride, 24 Feb 2008
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One's first thought upon reading these engagingly written little tales is that the author typifies that elusive creature "the global citizen". Ken is at home whether placing himself squarely in the mind of a homesick Chinese girl inhabiting an unwelcoming European city, or that of a corrupt, African hick attempting to demonstrate worldly sophistication but only succeeding in showing himself to be a laughable buffoon. While subtly indicating that he is a man living far away from his roots, Ken manages to demonstrate an easy familiarity with all of the locations in which he chooses to set the stories.

Ken's powers of observation are truly engaging. Nuances of human speech and behaviour are acutely observed and set out in a delicate, yet hilarious style. The reader finds himself effortlessly living through the lives of the characters in the stories. You feel their fears and laugh their laughs as you turn the pages of this thrilling little book.

"A Fragile Hope" ended much too quickly for me. I wanted more, much more! I felt like a little boy sitting at the foot of an elderly relative while being regaled with story after story and repeatedly yelling "Another one, please!" This cannot be the last we will here of Ken Kamoche. He has a rich deposit of talent and information waiting to be mined some more.

I greatly enjoyed going on this exhilarating ride round the world with Ken and can hardly wait for the next one. This, for me, was a tour de force. Congratulations, Ken!

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