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Let's Tell This Story Properly by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Let's Tell This Story Properly - Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

I thought Kintu was fantastic, so was looking forward to this short story collection. Which, as it turned out, is good, but not quite as good as I was hoping. Though admittedly, I read it soon after three great collections, which set a high bar for short stories.

The first seven stories, just over half the book, follow Ugandan immigrants in Manchester, mostly in the present day, though one story is set in the 1950s. These stories, while interesting, are rather dreary, very much about social issues and always commenting on The Ugandan Immigrant Experience, to the point that the commentary started to feel like a crutch; can’t the human stories stand on their own without having to be representative? Most of these stories probably are strong enough to stand on their own, though they feel a little relentless in their dreariness.

But the last five stories, set in Uganda and generally dealing with returnees from Britain, are a breath of fresh air; while social issues are still central, these stories bring a lightness, openness and warmth missing from the first half of the collection. And the second half just keeps getting better as it goes; the title story and “Love Made in Manchester” are on fire.

Overall, an interesting collection of well-written stories that discuss various issues affecting Ugandans moving between home and England. I like it when short stories leave a bit more to ponder than these do, when the characters are a bit more memorable, but there are some really interesting situations here, and some fun and creativity (such as the story from the point-of-view of a dog). It is worth a read, though I think this author may excel more at novels than short stories.