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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2010
Its been really a daunting task for me to review this book. I mean how do you review a perfect book? The best I can say to anyone is READ IT!

Anyways, I tried to express how I feel and how I believe others should as well...... Enjoy!

Speak Swahili Dammit (SSD) is an exhilarating book. A marvel. A story worth retelling.

It is a true description of life in the bushes of Tanganyika in the 1950's.

Jimu, the author and main character himself, is an articulate story teller who tells the story as it is. This is confirmed as Jimu goes on openly and vividly describing his recollections without hiding or altering events which many would have found too shameful to associate themselves with, like catching fart!

The poor spelling of Swahili words which the author spells as they are pronounced, is a telling fact that he did not know how to read or write in Swahili, yet the rich vocabulary of Swahili words, idioms, insults and jokes confirm that Jimu is a true mSwahili who belongs to the watu.

You will want to read it quietly alone as it is with novel reading, but you will soon be itching to share the fun with someone else.

The book has a rich account of some of the world's most historical moments and events such as the world war II, Tanzania's independence day, the times of colonialism and more.

Its is guaranteed to drive you through a rollacoster of emotions as the author takes you through the good times and the most horrifying experiences of life. Moving you from anger to fear, panic to laughter, then back again to panic, then laughter, suddenly you realize your eyes are wetting with tears, and on emotions keep changing randomly to the last paragraph.

It's a childishly hilarious tale at times, yet a very serious and sad one at other. Its a thriller, a drama, a love soapy, a comedy, an adventure, all in one.

Its the only novel where I have not only read a story but became a part of it. I became Lutoli, then Umali, then Mlozi, Dieti, then Iwe, then Marais, Matwiga, Roper, Kalebu, and then Steveni.... as I observe this small white black man in great amazement!

This is the first novel ever to read and wish for the end never to come.
The more I read I wanted more, the fewer the pages on the right-hand-side became the more I wished they would miraculously become.

Since I'm told everything has to have its shortfalls, the shortfall of the SSD, if I'm to forge it, is that it makes you want to meet Gretchen, the beauty Jimu fell in love with, while knowing its practically impossible. Otherwise, you will fail to find anything to fault the SSD from the cover to the time when Jimu returns home - in the bushes of Tanganyika at the Republic of Kichoncho!

A must read for everyone!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2010
The best compliment I can pay to this book it that I was sorry to have finished it. Its characters travelled with me over the course of a trip to my own native country and their lives joined mine for that short period.

James Penhaligon, Jimu as he is mostly known in the book (apart from when being addressed in institutional situations by his formal first name of Francis) provided me with a personal guide to the Tanganyika of the 50s and early 60s, an era during which I also was a child. For me the country which is now, as Jim recounts, part of Tanzania, acquired reality where previously my intimations of it had been stamps in my childhood album.

This tour of Jim's early life includes his friends and family, the wildlife, for example the frightening and nigh-on supernatural "fisis" or hyenas, the characters in his community and school, his experiences of death and bereavement and of life-threatening personal illness. He speaks of his family origins in Cornwall with as much affection as about the country of his African childhood. In the background, and emerging to prominence towards the latter part of his story, is the political situation in Tanganyika which was part of the circumstances causing his and his families' reluctant departure from the country.

He tells all this with great fluency and gusto. I do look forward to the next instalment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2012
This is a wonderful book. Striking imagery, total, brutal honesty and open hearted writing the like of which is so seldom found (in my experience, at least). I read this from end to end in just a few days - 'stealing' moments to read a little more, moments which so often stretched into midnight hours...
What more could be added that has not already been said by others?
Yes, this is a book to entertain, to educate, to captivate the reader who will be taken through the full gamut of human emotions - possibly even shedding a tear in one or two places.
Well done and very well written, Sir! Thankyou.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
Speak Swahili, Dammit !
This is a must read book. A story that will appeal to young and old a like,and of different cultures. One that you keep wanting to turn the pages of, but yet not wanting it to end.
It is set in Tanganika in the 1950's(what becomes Tansania) in a place called Geita a gold mining community. It is the story of a little white boy Jim (Jimu), growing up with the warmth and love of his family. When tragedy strikes his world falls apart, his father dies leaving a very young angry hurt little boy, who tries to "shoot God" for taking his father away. Yes a book that will make you laugh and cry, a true roller coaster of emotions are experienced, as the writer magically puts his pen to paper.
The story follows Jimu with his friends, which will make you laugh at their adventures. In this harsh land which he clearly loves, and is in his sole.
This is a mans world, but one where his Mother scratches out a living for her young children. Watching her son run wild with local children, and learning Swahili, as his first language. Her heart wrenching decicion to sent him far away to boarding school in Arush , where he has some dreadful experience alone and far away.
The author describes the era well, and what was happening in East Africa and the World at the time,1950's and 60's.
What wonderfull colourful characters are brought to life. Characters who have lasting effects on this young lad. A story of the wildness of Africa,with her wonderful people. The danger of Africa's wild beasts some deadly, which he, Jimu encounters. Its a story of friendships,tragedy, again as he looses his best friend,and a love story, a young boys first love. His dices with death from illnesses from this harsh place. A book that takes you into the reality of life, and the attempted taming of a free spirited young boy.
I truly enjoyed this book.Living in Cornwall I enjoyed the Cornish link. As the saying goes "where there is a hole in the ground there is a Cornishman".
I believe that the Author should try and make this into a fim. What a refreshingly different story, one from the heart obviously.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2012
It seems slightly pointless adding another 5-star rating to an already highly-rated book, but I felt I wanted to register my own appreciation for the book. I picked it up on spec when it was temporarily free, not expecting much, and slightly sceptical of the glowing reviews.
I must say though that I utterly loved the book. I have no particular experience of Africa, and little appreciation or understanding of its culture and politics, but James Penhaligon paints such a vivid picture that it is impossible not to feel as though you know everyone personally. Even with a modest amount of artistic licence, the escapades are utterly believable, no matter how outrageous they may seem,and the consequences are keenly felt. The struggles and the joys of life are so well described that it is as though one was an eye-witness rather than a detached reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2012
Jimu's descriptions of his childhood at a remote gold mine in the middle of the bush in Tanganyika are both tragic and comic.

Death comes in many forms, and affects him deeply. Yet it doesn't crush his joie de vivre, and he's always up to mischief, whether it's spouting Swahili obscenities to uncomprehending Europeans charmed by his angelic appearance, or his ingenious attempts to uncover the mystery of the female body.

While his widowed mother works to support her family Jimu spends much of his time with the African house servants and their children, and he relates far more to them than to the mzungus - white people.

There are no horribly graphic accounts in this story - something that always ruins a book for me.

Having lived in Kenya for 20 years, I particularly enjoy books about East Africa, and have read all of Elspeth Huxley, Karen Blixen, Robert Ruark and many others. But none have I enjoyed as much as this enchanting tale of a little white boy in love with Africa. Set in the period between the end of WWII and the coming of Independence, it was probably for many settlers the golden age of life in East Africa, and brought back to me the sights, the sounds, and the charm of the African people with their gentle humour and love of children.

You can tell from the writing that the author's heart still belongs to Africa, and anybody who has lived there for any length of time will know that once Africa gets into your heart, you can never completely get it out.

A beautiful read, skilfully written.

Mzuri sana, Jimu.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2012
Where do I start? This book brought back so many wonderful memories by the author's use of Swahili and stories I could identify with. Even if you have never been to East Africa this book beautifully describes life in the East African bush during the colonial era through a child's eyes. It was wonderful, I couldn't put it down and will definitely read it again. A brilliantly written book.

Buy it, you will not be disappointed!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2012
Wow, what an excellent biography of a young white plucky little boy growing up in Geita; a remote town in East Africa in the early 50's and 60's. Not only does Jimu, the author provide a fascinating insight into his own life but also paints a vivid portrait of the political and historical happenings of the age in and around Tanzania.

Fascinating, riveting, hilarious, sad, nail biting. I cried, I laughed, and I almost stopped breathing when he came face to face with a black mamba or when he and his friend were chased by a huge lion.

I couldn't get enough of it. Please, please Jimu lets have more of the same, further adventures of Jimu boy? I hope your answer will be "yes".

"Hakuna Matata"
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2012
This book is simply brilliant it is 'unputdownable' and fantastically written. Funny, sad and at times quite amazing. How I wish I'd had the good fortune of spending a childhood growing up in such a magical and vibrant place. I did not want this book to end, and I would hope the author is going to write a sequel?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2012
I picked this as a kindle download to take away on holiday; the title and the illustration grabbed me first. What a wonderful, evocative, heart warming, hilarious, sad, moving and happy book - I loved every bit of. I also grew up in Africa (east and west) and although I only know a few words of swahili it wasn't difficult to pick up bits and pieces again. Please, please write some more!
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