The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

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The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

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Redigerat: okt 22, 2011, 9:14 am

The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Published 1965.

Ngũgĩ 's first two novels both depict a native African community torn apart by the influence of British colonialism. In Weep Not Child the author writes of a specific time and place, makes reference to historical persons and events, and establishes his novel in the context of broader events.

The River Between, in contrast, is an intimate look at a single community in isolation, examining the impact of a single issue: the introduction of Christianity and its opposition to the practice of female circumcision.

The community in question is a pair of villages of the Gikuyu people in modern-day Kenya. The early Christian converts are treated as curiosities until the missionary leaders and their followers take a belligerent stance against female circumcision, a rite that is central to both individual and tribal identity. A young man named Waiyake, educated by the missionaries but faithful to tribal beliefs, realizes that only through education and political power can the Gikuyu hope to fight back against whites who are taking their land. He searches for a way to unite Christians and traditionalists.

The River Between is a look at the difficulty of seeing a common cause amid the fears and animosities generated by historical change.

okt 22, 2011, 8:58 am

Nice review, Steven. I enjoyed this book too, and thought it was an interesting portrayal of a particular point in time and beautifully written.

By the way, your touchstones link to a different book called The River Between --you may want to edit them.

okt 22, 2011, 9:40 am

Thanks. One of the perils of cross-posting is forgetting that the touchstones may need correcting.

okt 22, 2011, 9:42 am

Very nice review, Steven. I brought my copy with me, and I think I'll read it today.

nov 2, 2011, 8:23 pm

Here's my review:

This short novel is set in colonial Kenya, in an isolated region where two rival populations each live on a ridge separated by a river that nourishes—and erodes—the land of both communities. One community is mainly Christian, led by a local man who has embraced the colonialists' religion and rejects traditional values, particularly circumcision of young men and women; the other is based on tribal traditions, led by a group of elders and influenced by a young man who is descended from a rich lineage, was educated in part by the Christian missionaries that influenced the other camp, and is highly respected by many in the community for educating its young people. This community embraces circumcision as an essential ritual, and is torn between those who embrace and support the Teacher, and a small but powerful faction led by a sworn power hungry enemy of the Teacher. The Teacher himself is torn by his duty to the community, passed down by his father, his love of the uncircumcised daughter of the preacher of the neighboring community, and his belief that the two rivals must unite to combat the increasing influence of the colonialists and gain independence from them. This was closer to a 4½ star than a 4 star read for me, and is highly recommended.

dec 14, 2011, 1:46 pm

I was really, really impressed by this book. It almost read like a fairy tale, or a fable, to me. I actually read the whole thing in one sitting (not that it is a very long book) because I was so absorbed in it.