Category: African Literature

Love’s Affliction by Fidelis O. Mkparu, book review

Summary

Loves Affliction; A tale of love and acceptance.Love’s Affliction by Fidelis O. Mkparu narrates on the experiences of Joseph Fafa. After he arrived in North Carolina in 1977 to attend college, he thought he had left violence behind in his native Nigeria, where the Biafran War claimed two members of his family. What he wasn’t expecting was to be attacked because his skin color was different than that of the young woman he was dating. In North Carolina, Joseph learns that being able to speak the “King’s English” doesn’t guarantee he’ll know when he is being insulted in the local vernacular—as when a young Southern black woman calls him an “Uncle Tom” for dating a white woman.

So long as the relationship between Joseph and the beautiful ballerina Wendy Crane is strictly platonic, her wealthy and powerful family is willing to be tolerant. But when it becomes clear that Wendy wishes to take her friendship with the ambitious and high-achieving young premed student to a more intimate level, her father’s instincts as a Southern man of property and importance kick into high gear. James Crane lets Joseph know that he doesn’t mind the Nigerian dating American women—just so long as the woman isn’t his daughter. And when Joseph follows the advice of his heart and continues dating Wendy, he learns, too late, just how tenuous institutional promises can be. When Joseph’s acceptance into the college of medicine and promise of a scholarship are rescinded, he has only to read the name of the institution that has closed its doors to him: the Crane-University Medical Center.

But even with Wendy, Joseph finds little peace. She is jealous of the attentions Joseph gave the beautiful Francesca after Wendy decamped the racial storms of North Carolina for France. And even though Francesca dumped him for a career as a swimsuit model, Wendy still distrusts the attention Joseph receives from Gina McRee, who may take her role as the foreign student’s mentor as being more than “sisterly.”

Love’s Affliction tells the story of the three years Joseph Fafa of Nigeria spends in premed studies at a North Carolina college and how his love for the beautiful and talented daughter of a prestigious Southern family nearly destroys his dreams of becoming a doctor. When, twenty-nine years later, Joseph and Wendy’s paths cross again, they are able to look through past pains and misconceptions and accept their youthful love for what it was, a flare of illumination sparked by the clash between two cultures, leaving each of them better, wiser people.

The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola, book review

The River and The Source

The River and the Source is among the few out-standing works tagged African literature. In this novel touching on family ties and continuity of the authentic African social fabric, Margaret Ogola exemplified her prowess in creative writing in a captivating and informative narrative. The River and the Source Novel was first published in 1994, and became the first among Margaret Ogola’s three notable novels. The novel is currently a literature study text in Kenya. Other literary works written by Margaret Ogola prior to her demise are: Cardinal Otunga: A Gift of Grace with Margaret Roche (1999); I Swear by Apollo (2002); Place of Destiny (2005). The novel “I Swear by Apollo” was written as a sequel to The River and The Source.

Summary & Review

The story-line in The River and The Source follows the inter-related lives of women across four generations. As evident in the novel, social changes occurring in the course of time has significant impact on the way the society views women, and accords them opportunities. Margaret Ogola successfully captures these changing perceptions over time, and eventually portrays the place of women in the modern African society. She skillfully shows how these experiences are more or less similar or related, though occurring in different time dispensations.

The setting of the story is in Kenya, with the use of language and thematic concerns showing a deep appreciation of the Luo Culture. Moreover, the themes addressed in the story are applicable to the general African context. As the events is the story are set in the post-colonial period, the Margaret Ogola makes strong statements in relation to the advancement of women’s rights for the African context. Her feminist approach to writing does not look down at men in society, for the elevation of women’s status. On the contrary, the author’s creativity molds the African woman as innately strong, whose strength need only be acknowledged and therefore awakened. She steers clear of showing competition between men and women in African societies, and gives the idea that all can work together for mutual benefits.

Margaret Ogola also shows the similarity of challenges experienced by women across time, where the different generations of women seemingly share in the experiences of oppression, and their ability of overcoming the oppressive lifestyle imposed on them. The length of the book does justice to the author’s intentions to tell her story. As you flip through the pages, which otherwise seem inexhaustible, you become more and more engaged with the story. The young African reader can easily relate with the imagery on African lifestyle, as depicted in the story. The general readership is easily captivated by the artistic narration of events, crowning Ogola as one of the prolific African writers in the past few decades. Margaret Ogola is therefore successful in her intentions to tell the story. She creatively informs on the plight of the African woman, and gives insight on her abilities wherever she is given the opportunity to perform.

The themes, characters, setting and audience add taste to the narrative. The unfolding of events from one chapter to the next reveals the hidden patterns in the novel, which assist the author in telling her story. Hence, the plot of novel is divided into four parts;

*Part 1: The Girl Child     *Part 2: The Art of Giving     *Part 3: Love and Life     *Part 4: Variable winds

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Analysis of “The successor” by Francis Imbuga

Summary and Review

The Successor, a play by Francis Imbuga, focuses on the themes of human greed and the role of the supernatural in determining the course of our lives. Character- being a major aspect in drama has been used by the author as the vehicle with which he has relayed his desire message. The writer has used different characters in his play to convey different messages.

Characters that are found in the play are; Chief Jandi, Diviner See Through, Zira, Ademola, Demokola, Chief Oriomra, Segasega, Emperor Chonda, Chief Sasia, Kaisia, Kaliyesa, Vunami, Rita and Akiuso. The major characters in the play are; Chief Jandi, Emperor Chonda, Zira, Kaisia, Oriomra and the Diviner See Through.

The Successor by Francis ImbugaThe play is divided into two parts, each of which is divided into a number of scenes. Each of the parts presents a new stage in the development of the play’s plot. In the first part of the plot, the audience is introduced to the various characters in the play. The audience has the chance of learning about the nature of each of the characters and the role that each of them play in the development of the plot. The second part of the play opens with a new task for the Emperor of Masero (Emperor Chonda), where he has been accorded the task of naming a successor to the throne.

Apart from the themes of greed and the role of the supernatural in determining the course of our lives, other themes that the author of the play has dealt with include; materialism, social relationships and the struggle for political positions. Suggest more themes for this summary.

The author has also used a number of devices, which have enabled him to convey his message. Some of the devices which he has used include; Irony, humour, songs and suspense.

The author has used all the aspects at his disposal; characters and stylistic devices, so as to be able to convey his desired message, and has thus been successful in communicating his message and also using literature as a tool for both entertainment and education.

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Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba, Summary and Book Review

Plot Summary

Scarlet Song Novel by Mariama BaThe novel, Scarlet Song, by Mariama Ba, focuses on the theme of love, and narrates the story of two youngsters. Ousmane Gueye (a Senegalese) and Mireille (daughter of a French diplomat). The two young people are from highly diverse backgrounds, but are bound together by love.

At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Ousmane Gueye. The writer gives a description of the kind of environment he grew up in – a humble background. Mireille, however, has different experiences in life. As the daughter of a French diplomat, her life is rather fair.

The novel is divided into three main parts. Each of the parts is further divided into several smaller sections. Each main part of the novel presents a major milestone for the couple’s relationship.

Ousmane Gueye is from a humble Muslim family and has overcome numerous challenges to acquire education. Mireille, on the other hand is from an affluent home, and literally had everything she desired materially, while growing up. Neither the difference in their worlds, nor the animosity arising from both families towards each other, succeeds in drawing them apart.After a separation that lasted for a number of years, the two get married and settle down in Senegal.

The novel, however, ends on a sad note, as Ousmane has an affair with Ouleymatou (a childhood friend). On discovering the double standard life Ousmane is leading, Mireille becomes mentally unstable and kills their young child. She also goes on and stabs Ousmane several times. The story ends with her deportation to France.

Setting, Characters, & Themes

The novel is set in different locations, among which, the major ones include; Rural African setting, Institution of Higher Learning and Urban environments. Each of the different settings is of significance in the development of the novels’ plot.

There are a number of characters in the novel, among which the major ones are; Ousmane Gueye and Mireille. Other characters in the novel include; Yaye Khady (Ousmane’s mother), Djibril Gueye (Ousmane’s father), Ouleymatou (Ousmane’s childhood friend and later on, wife), and Mireille’s father and mother.

The writer adopts an Omniscient narrator’s voice throughout the novel. This enables the reader to have an all round view of the events that take place in the novel.The author’s use of language has also enabled her to give the novel an authentic African taste. There are a number of words in the novel, which are written in Arabic. This is an additional attempt at reflecting the culture of the community in focus.

Apart from the theme of love, which is the major theme in the novel, other themes that the writer highlights include; racial animosity, traditions versus modernity, Education and Betrayal.

Book Review

Mariama Ba ranks among prolific writers of the past and current century. She not only writes about the authentic African experience. She explores the struggles and experiences of a ‘special’ category of Africans. Mariama Ba explores the place of women as having a special place in the African society.

Indeed, most of the struggles facing the African woman are highlighted in the novel. Some of the experiences she writes about can be linked with Mariama Ba’s personal life and struggles as a woman in the African context. As a Feminist writer, she skillfully and artistically illuminated the role of women in the largely patriarchal African society.

As Mariama Ba writes from her experiences as an African woman, the majority of women share in her sentiments concerning struggle and recognition of women in Africa. Mariama Ba’s depiction of women is comparable to that of Margaret Ogola, in the novel The River and the Source.

Mariama Ba has been successful in her efforts of informing the reader about the predicament facing different classes of individuals within her society. At the same time ensuring that the reader remains captivated throughout the novel.

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The Concubine by Elechi Amadi, Book Review

Summary and Review

The Concubine by Elechi AmadiThe concubine is a fictitious novel by Nigerian author Elechi Amadi. The novel was first published in 1966 after which the author published a number of other literary works; some of which include: The Great Ponds (1969), Sunset in Biafra (1973), The Slave (1978) and Estrangement (1986). It is however, this novel (The Concubine) which stands as the authors’ crowning achievement.

The title of the book The concubine is symbolic as its meaning is only revealed to the reader in the closing chapters of the novel. It becomes clear that ‘the concubine’ is none other than Ihuoma – a beautiful lady and the main character in the novel.

The concubine has its setting in rural Nigeria, as the author makes an effort to depict the African traditional Way of life in its totality; its religious, social, cultural and even economic practices. A number of Nigerian rural villages are mentioned by the author, all of which aid in building the African authenticity of the novel.

The storyline of the novel revolves around the main character- Ihuoma, a beautiful and equally attractive lady in her village. She gains admiration by all and sundry , not only for Her beauty but how gracefully she conducts herself in everything she does. At the beginning of the novel, we get introduced to to Ihuoma as married to Emenike.

Emenike had succeeded to get Ihuoma’s hand in marriage after another young man – Madume, had failed to win Ihuoma’s acceptance. Madumes’ rejection by Ihuoma and her consequent marriage to Emenike causes a deep-seated hatred in Madume towards Emenike. Later on an argument over a piece of land results to a fight between Emenike and Madume. Emenike succumbs to wounds resulting from the fight and dies of ‘chest lock’.

Madume suffers guilt for being responsible for the death of a Kinsman. It is easy to associate Emenikes’ death to fate considering that he is a husband to Ihuoma and ‘protector of his home’.
Madume sees the death of Emenike as an opportunity to woo Ihuoma. She however refuses his advances which results to Madume harassing her. On a particular day, Madume tries to stop Ihuoma from harvesting crops on the piece of land that had caused an argument between him and Emenike. In the process a snake – cobra, spits into his eyes, resulting to blindness.

At this point, it becomes clear that a power, stronger than that of a human is behind Ihuoma. Ekwueme is another young man who tries to woo Ihuoma after Emenikes’ death. Ihuoma tries to discourage Ekwueme, since she already has children and he is younger than her. After tirelessly trying to win Ihuomas’ approval over and over, Ekwueme is unsuccessful and eventually marries Ahurole, who is betrothed to him in childhood. A marriage devoid of love towards Ahurole leaves Ekwueme ‘empty’ and ‘lonely’ and still attracted to Ihuoma. Ahurole feels distanced from her husband – Ekwueme, and decides to administer a love charm to him, as per her mothers’ advice. The ‘medicine’ has a negative effect on Ekwueme, who turns mentally unstable and desires being with Ihuoma even the more.

Meanwhile, Madume becomes unable to cope with his predicament – blindness, and decides to end his life; which is an abomination in his community. On the other hand, Ekwueme recovers from his sickness after being granted the permission to marry Ihuoma. Prior to the wedding, ‘divine inquiry’ is made, which reveals that Ihuoma – is a concubine to a ‘Sea –King’. The divine being is behind the deaths surrounding Ihuomas’ suitors – as a result of jealousy. Despite of the revelation of the impending misfortune, Ekwueme and Ihuoma consider it too late to reverse their relationship and thus go ahead with their wedding preparations. During the wedding preparations, Ekwueme is short by a stray arrow, shot by Ihuomas’ son during play. Ekwueme succumbs to the arrow wound and dies. Ihuoma is left devasted and wishes for her own death. The novel ends with Ihuoma in a state of devastation.

Themes

The author has explored a number of themes in the novel among which the major ones are; role of the supernatural on human lives. Supernatural forces are evidently seen to have an upper hand on human relationships and have control the course that such relationships take. This evidenced in the novel, where the ‘Sea-King’ has a hold on Ihuomas’ life and eliminates all who try or succeed in winning her love. In line with the theme on the role of divinities on human lives, is the theme of superstition. Superstitions were common in tradition African societies and seen in the novel when community members consult mediums before undertaking various quests.

The theme of love is also explored in the novel by the author. Emphasis is on how strong love is. The author depicts love posing a challenge to the supernatural forces surrounding Ihuomas’ life. Love is expressed through various suitors to Ihuoma, while the supernatural forces take the form of the ‘Sea-King’. Ekwueme is certain of his fate if he marries Ihuoma, but goes on, driven by love.

Characters

There are a number of characters in the novel, among which are;

Ihuoma; a lady and the leading character in the novel
Emenike; Ihuomas’ husband at the beginning of the novel
Madume; One of the rejected suitors, by Ihuoma and husband to Wolu
Ekwueme; A young man and suitor to Ihuoma
Ahurole; A beautiful lady from Omigwe and wife to Ekwueme

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A Meeting in the Dark – Ngungi Wa Thing’o (Book Report)

Summary and Review

A meeting in the dark by James NgugiA meeting in the dark is a short story by Kenya’s prolific writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The story is set in Kenya, among the Kikuyu community. The story is about a young man called John, who is among the few young men in his community to have acquired the ‘white man’s education’. In the story, John is revered and looked upon by many members of his community as the perfect representation of a ‘true African son’. John had managed to complete all the levels of education available in the country at that time and was set to leave for further education in a neighbouring country.

John, as the main character in the story is portrayed as optimistic about his future, once he acquires higher education. However there is something else that is holding him back, someone else who is casting shadows of doubt in his heart – Wamuhu. Wamuhu is John’s lover, who happens to get pregnant unexpectedly just before he leaves the country. John had done his best to hide his disturbed mind from showing on his face, but had achieved very little in the presence of his observant mother. Susana (John’s mother) could clearly see that her son was deeply troubled about something, but could not get much out of him She is presented by the author as closer to John compared to the father, who is portrayed as rather distant from John’s emotional development.

Recommended: The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola, Book Review

Continued preoccupation with the idea that he would be forced to marry Wamuhu and cut short his education causes John to develop anxiety. The anxiety turns to fear at the thought of his father discovering that his son had impregnated an ‘unbeliever’s daughter’. As the date of his departure approaches, he tries to come up with a plan of silencing Wamuhu – until he has managed to leave the country. Wamuhu is however aware of John’s impending departure, as John had not succeeded in keeping his educational opportunity a secret in his community.

Nightmares haunt John in his sleep, and when he cannot hold his peace any longer, he decides to go visit Wamuhu. He steadily heads towards the direction of Wamuhu’s home, reaches to the door, knocks and enters. John casts a glance across the room after being welcomed, as is the custom in his village, and notices that the person of his interest is not among them – Wamuhu. After a short while, he excuses himself and leaves in a hurry, nearly bumping into Wamuhu at the doorway.

John and Wamuhu move away from the house and walk along in the dark, where they hold their conversation. John tries to draw up all sorts of plans as to convince Wamuhu keep the pregnancy a secret from her parents, but she does not give in to any of John’s ideas. At some point, John encourages Wamuhu to lay the pregnancy responsibility on another young man so as to let him off the hook, but Wamuhu views this as an insult to her. She further informs John that her mother had already become suspicious owing to Wamuhu’s ‘heavy breathing’ as she slept.

At this point, John’s mind runs blank and seems to have run out of ideas on how to keep Wamuhu silent. He sees himself falling into a ‘bottomless pit’; he is unable to ‘contemplate the fall’. In a feat of confusion and desperation, John grabs Wamuhu by the neck and squeezes her tightly. He continues to tighten his grip on her as she gasps for air and free herself, but in vain. There in the dark, Wamuhu collapses, and John comes back to his senses as he looks on the Wamuhu’s body lying motionless on the ground. The story closes with the line“….he had created then killed”.

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Book review: Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee

Summary and Review

Disgrace novel by J M CoetzeeJohn M. Coetzee, in his novel, Disgrace (1999), explores the challenges that members of European community face in post-apartheid South Africa. The author focuses on the career and private life of the main character in the novel, David Lurie, as a pointer to the injustices meted against European minorities within the South African society. It would occur to one as common knowledge, for reference and attribution of social oppression and injustices as directed towards African individuals within the given African state. However, in the course of the novel, Coetzee manages to weave out a clear picture on the sufferings of European individuals, as they are faced with animosity and are forced out their homes and property. The author additionally explores controversial topics that face individuals not only within the African context, but universally.

As the author engages the reader in the course of reading the novel, one cannot help but identify with situation of the main character. David Lurie – the main character in the novel, is a University Professor and published author. As the novel begins, David Lurie is presented similar to his colleagues at the University. However, his distinctive character and difference in opinion towards various issues is soon revealed in the course of reading the book. He is involved in a string of uncommitted sexual encounters with different female characters. He The author focuses on David’s behavior as a desire to explore every form of human desire without social restriction or cultural prohibition.

Throughout the novel, David is seen to remain emotionally-detached from all the subjects with whom he engages in sexual liaisons. At the beginning of the novel, there is Soraya, a married woman with whom he has an affair, but who later cuts communication with him and cautions him to keep distant. Later in the novel he is ensnared in his own escapades through sexual involvement with one of his students at the University – Melanie Isaacs.

The relationship between David and Melanie (student) turns sour and is the beginning of a downward spiral for David’s career. This also forms the major crises in the novel, where the character fights to retain his innocence and right to love and be with whoever he chooses (in reference to Melanie Isaacs). He is put to task by the University management over his involvement with a student, after a complaint is filed against him by the student’s parent. He chooses to uphold the opinion that he is not guilty. His failure to accept guilt forces him out of his job as professor.

He thereafter heads to the country-side to visit Lucy – his daughter. He seems emotionally detached from his daughter. To add insult to injury, Lucy is raped by strangers soon after David arrives and David sustains injuries in the course of the attack. She resigns to herself and the rift of lack in communication between her and David enlarges. Lurie makes attempts at convincing his daughter to move from the county side and travel abroad as a result of the attack, but his efforts bear no fruit. Frustrated, he moves back to the city but cannot stop thinking about his daughter. He eventually returns to the country side, where a new revelation from Lucy awaits him- Lucy is pregnant from the rape ordeal. He cannot seem to bear the thought that Lucy would keep the baby – ‘a black baby’, but she opts to do so, against his advice. He tries to convince her of ‘getting-rid’ of the pregnancy, but she remains adamant. She decides to keep the baby, which unfolds numerous thoughts and realities for David Lurie, among which the most interesting is – he will soon become a grandfather.

The author’s depiction of Lucy’s choice to keep the pregnancy is symbolic. It possibly symbolizes the merging of the African and European cultures with the aim of development. The author possibly argues that the meeting of cultures produces results, which are subject to adoption is the future is to behold for both.

In addition to the skillful and artistic use of language, The author makes use of familiar images to the African situation, an example is the adoption of the county-side setting, which is a familiar apsect in African literature. He further successfully constructs the idea that being-African is not a reserve for ‘black-individuals’, but for every individual who has earned the right to be African. He clearly depicts the African experience in the person of Lucy and Characters such as Petrus. Coetzee’s view of unison and compromise of cultures is a possible reality with the current global developments and need for cultural progression – this is enhanced by the realization that no single culture is self-sufficient. The book provides a good read and enables one step out of the biases of their culture and identify with the experiences on individuals from other cultures.

Themes

Power and control: exemplified in the person of David Lurie

Racial animosity: evident throughout the novel

African’s empowerment:evident in the person Character of Petrus, whose relationship with Lucy is seen to change, ‘slave-master’ to equals.

Characters

Major Characters: David Lurie, Lucy

Minor Characters: Soraya, Bev Shaw, Melanie Isaacs, Petrus

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, book review

Summary and Review

Americanah Novel Book CoverAmericanah is a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published in 2013. The critically acclaimed novel addresses the racial and cultural conflict between Africans and the rest of the world. Americanah is part of a ‘themed book series’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her exploration of African cultural identity in the face of modernity and westernization. In a single twist of her literary creativity, the author focuses on themes such as feminism, cultural identity, westernization and love.

Plot

Ifemelu and obienze are the main characters in the novel. The story line follows their quest for survival away from home, as they flee their war-torn home country. The Nigerian civil war resulted in the death of scores of citizens and resulted in the displacement of scores of families from their original homelands. among the displaced are Obienze and Ifemelu. Ifemelu is educated and confident young African lady. She heads to America, fleeing the intensity of the war in her home country Obienze is the son of a scholar, who heads to London after refusal for entry in the United States. The separation between Obienze and Ifemelu threatens to wear down their love for each other. However, they remain ‘silently in touch’ with their love.

While in the United Kingdom, Obienze results to an undocumented civilian life. His options are seemingly limited, as he seeks accommodation at any place, other than his war-tone country. He proceeds to manage his life without raising suspicion from the authorities. Meanwhile, Ifemelu learns the ways of the American lifestyle. The new lifestyle is different in every way. She struggles to come to terms with the different aspects of the American culture and continues longing for home.

Obienze and Ifemelu later on their return home, and continue to re-ignite their love for each other. Obienze has managed to accumulate wealth and Ifemelu has been shaped by her experiences abroad.

Review

Chumamanda Ngozi Adichie clearly articulates the African experience away from the continent. Obienze meets his own set of challenges in the United Kingdom, while Ifemelu makes considerable effort in getting acquainted with the American culture. The two youngster thrive in the face of challenges, and manage to head back home with better experiences apart from war. Ideally, they become influential cultural figures in their country, as it regains its strength from the effects of the civil war.

The determination of the African is evident in the lives of Obienze and Ifemelu. Despite the numerous challenges they encounter, they strive for improvement of their personal lives. The longing and later return home validates their regard for cultural belonging and and authenticity. In a way, Chimamanda argues that, home is where the heart belongs. The experiences away from home are important for the cultural and intellectual development of the individual. However, the one’s separation from their cultural roots marks their point of detachment with their sense of humanity.

The main characters in the novel include: Obienze and Ifemelu.

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Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba, book review

Summary and Review

Scarlet Song Novel by Mariama BaScarlet Song is a novel by Mariama Ba, which was first published in 1981. The story line in the novel follows a tale of love and betrayal, featuring the lives of Ousmane Gueye and Mireille. Issues touching on women’s experiences in African patriarchal society take center stage in the course of the narrative.

The story opens with the introduction to one of the main characters in the novel – Ousmane Gueye. Mariama Ba describes Ousmane’s humbling childhood experiences while growing up. The author also introduces Mireille, Ousmane’s girlfriend and later, wife. Ousmane and Mireille fall in love and their love blossoms over time, growing stronger as they grow older. However, their family background pose a challenge to the blossoming relationship.

Ousmane is from a financially struggling family, leaving him with the only options of hard work and commitment as the way out of his family struggles. He meets Mireille. She is the daughter of a French diplomat to the country. Mireille’s upbringing in affluence distances her childhood experiences from those of Ousmane. However, love continually grows between the two youngsters, arousing conflict between their families. Ousmane’s parents are not supportive of his idea of marrying Mireille, while Mireille’s parents are also opposed to the relationship, or supposed marriage.

Ousmane successfully works his way up the academic ladder and becomes a respected scholar in academic circles. He goes ahead and marries Mireille. Their marriage is characterized by huddles, as each of them attempts to overcome the cultural differences of either side. Mireille compromises on numerous cultural aspects in the course of her marriage to Gueye. she sacrifices her preferences and accustomed lifestyle for the success of her marriage. Ousmane, in contrast, does little to sacrifice for nor conform to his wife’s preferences and need for comfort. Eventually, he develops unique interest in Ouleymatou, a childhood ‘lady-friend’. He engages in extra-marital affair with Ouleymatou.

Mireille eventually learns of her husband’s unfaithfulness to their marriage vows. She losses control of herself and enters into a state of mental instability. In her experience, she kills their young child and goes on to stab Ousmane several times on the back. Thereafter, Mireille is deported to France.

Review

The novel is generously toned with messages of cultural contact and reaction. Ousmane and Mireille represent the different cultural worlds of the French and African. Symbolically, the interaction attempted association of African and western cultures is characterized by numerous challenges. African traditions and culture have distinct aspects, which have a hold on Africans. The complete disregard for African traditional ways, as well as unfounded disregard for western civilization is likely to result in a chaotic society. ideally, Mariama Ba advocates for the merger between African and western cultures, on the grounds of understanding and mutual respect.

The patriarchal nature of the African society also receives attention in the course of the narrative. The disregard for the plight of women and unconditional tolerance for men’s oppressive conduct towards the women. In more ways than not, the novel assumes a feminist perspective in the course of narration.

Characters in the novel include: Ousmane Gueye, Mireille, Djibril Gueye, Yaye Khady, Ouleymatou.

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Coming to Birth by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, book review.

Summary and Review

Coming to Birth by marjorie oludhe macgoye book reviewComing to Birth is a novel written by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, and was first published in 1986. Marjorie moved and settled in Kenya during her early adulthood years. She was quickly integrated into the Luo culture, which is part of the larger African culture. She learnt the way of life, traditions, and customs of the Luo community in the course of her marriage to D. G. W. Macgoye – her husband. The novel gives the clear indication of detailed experiences in the Luo culture and traditions.

Plot

The storyline in the novel follows Kenya’s growth as a young independent nation. The political narrative runs alongside a tale of two young people in love – Martin and Paulina. They are the main characters in the novel, as their lives are seen to change as the events and happenings of the storyline shift and turn. Martin belongs to the working-class category in society, while Paulina is at first portrayed as a naïve young lady with little experience concerning the ‘ways of the city’. The love between Paulina and Martina captures the readers’ attention. Neither Martin nor Paulina openly express their affection  to each other, but rather through spontaneous acts of kindness, as seen from Martin to Paulina, revealing the presence of love. At the beginning of the novel, their love is ‘innocent and young’. It later faces the challenge of childlessness in marriage. The Marriage does not stand. Paulina is not able to sustain pregnancy full term, and experiences miscarriage several times. Martin is frustrated by his numerous yet unsuccessful attempts at getting a child by Paulina. They eventually separate, and Martin engages in extra-marital affairs. The story of Kenya’s ‘Coming to Birth’ is marked by the ‘coming of Uhuru’ and heightened expectations. However, dissatisfaction grows steadily, as political assassinations of senior political officers in the reigning government continues to take place. Riots and chaos characterize Kenya’s political space.

In the course of separation between Martin and Paulina, each attempts to have a child with other partners. Paulina gets a child by Simon, and names the child Okeyo. Perhaps the child’s naming is a way or reminding her of the commitment she made to Martin. Unfortunately, the child dies during political protests in Kisumu. Martin fails in his attempts of getting a child with other ladies. The hopelessness and despair seen in the relationship between Martin and Paulina is similar to that of prevailing politics in the country. The citizens seemingly protest for getting less than that which they bargained for, and neo-colonialism is most likely to take center stage in Kenya, as a young independent nation.

Later, Paulina and Martin are seen to come back together. Paulina is no longer the naïve lady seen at the beginning of the novel, and Martin is no longer the confident and ‘in-control’ individual depicted at the beginning of the story. The events in their marriage have shaped them into altogether different individuals. Paulina is empowered and able to voice her stand. Martin seems passive to the political and social events around him, a near state of disillusionment. The hope of achieving the true meaning of freedom in independent Kenya is finally ‘coming to Birth’. Citizens have the hope for a new turn in leadership.

Events in the novel turn for the better when Paulina informs Martin of her pregnancy. She is pregnant by Martin, and is happy about it. However, she recounts her past miscarriages, and decides to hold her Joy, yet. She politely cautions Martin of being overjoyed at the thought of having a child, but under the same breath expresses her optimism of a promising future. Kenya is also ‘Coming to Birth’ with the experience of stability in the political domain. The marriage between Martin and Paulina seems to stabilize, at last. Symbolically, the author offers hope for a politically stable and peaceful Kenya as seen between Martin and Paulina.

Review

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye works skillfully at depicting reality in a subtle manner. The political situation in Kenya is more of reality and contains verifiable facts. The author captures these facts and events, through the performance of a literary stance. The employment of imagery, symbols and ideas that are relative to the African experience lays the foundation for the success of her work. It is thus a masterpiece, written simply, clearly, and skillfully, to communicate the author’s thoughts and experiences concerning culture, politics and tradition.

Themes:

Male dominance/Chauvinism: Men are perceived as holding positions of influence in society. Martin, Mr. M., and Simon are some of the male characters with special privileges in society. Paulina’s interaction with each male character involved subjection to social ideologies that place the lady at a lower position of privilege than the man.

Feminism: Paulina, Chelagat and Mrs. M are some of the women who stand out in the novel. Their efforts result in the enhancement of women’s position in society are remarkable. They are seen to evolve positively throughout the novel, sometimes almost at the expense of the men’s wellbeing.

Political Betrayal: The prevailing politics in the country lead to disillusioned citizens. The initial hope placed on the government has diminished, and resentment towards the government continues to increase.

Perseverance: Throughout the novel Paulina exhibits perseverance. In the end, she gets what she wants – a child. Perseverance is also depicted in her development into a city woman. She gracefully overcomes the numerous challenges that combat her, and proceeds to have the life she wanted.

Marital unfaithfulness: Several characters, such as Martin, Paulina, Mr. M and Simon engage in extra-marital affairs. They put the integrity of their marriage unions at risk, through engagement in marital unfaithfulness.

Disillusionment: This sets in when life takes a different turn, from that which was expected. Martin sets the clear example of disillusionment, when politics in the country seem to deteriorate. He seems unhappy, and has little interest in other activities in life.

Characters:

Martin Were, Paulina Akelo, Mr. M., Mrs. M., Chelagat, Joyce, Fauzia, Susana, Racheal, and Mrs. Okelo.

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