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Merle

Merle

A Grain of Wheat - Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

A story of Kenyan independence and the toll the preceding struggle took on people.

Well, this is embarrassing--I don't know what to rate this. Based on the first couple pages I'd pegged it as a slog, and not expecting to enjoy it but feeling I should read it anyway for my world fiction challenge, read nearly half the book in a crowded place with divided attention. Turns out this is a complex story with a lot of names (many of them similar), a lot of jumping back and forth between past and present, a lot of connections between the characters that come clear only as the story goes on. In other words, a story that requires more attention than I gave it. The second half was quite good, though not so much that I wanted to read the first half all over again. (That decision may also have been influenced by the Smurfette Principle.... I am so over books that among several main characters have only one female, and she there because she's related to or a love interest of the guys, none of whom are related to each other.) The backstory and hidden connections unfold nicely, and for a book written right after independence the book foreshadows later problems with corruption and failed government promises surprisingly well.

If you decide to read this I'd advise finding an edition other than Heinemann's, which is ridiculously typo-ridden. The "day of reckoned" is my favorite. I know foreign literature doesn't make a lot of money, but seriously, if you're going to publish something can't you handle it with at least minimum competence?