Tag Archives: Chinelo Okparanta

Reviews of Books I have Recently Read

I had a few books that I needed to get through and here are my thoughts on some of them.

Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

  • The story talks about identify, self expression and family as well as issues of class and wealth and post-colonial African societies.
  • Made me ask myself what makes me African. Is it my dreadlocks, my clothing style, the language I speak or not speak. My race perhaps? Africans come in many moulds and it is fine because we build up each other and our environment.
  • It’s critically acclaimed and I agree that it’s definitely an important piece of literature for our time.
  • The writing style is not great and it was very confusing to know when it was a thought or the actual storyline and a good editor would have helped with this. But its a few pages so you could quickly get past that.

Spilt Milk – Kopano Matlwa

  • I quite liked this book, slightly better written but it definitely had more promise than it finally delivered because it just ended abruptly. To be honest, it also started just as abruptly so maybe this is a stylistic feature?
  • Can’t really say much about the other themes but the theme of education and a School that influences young African minds and philosophy personally appealed to me.
  • I also loved that she paid homage to all the (black) African greats and it was very encouraging to see this greatness that has gone before us. Led me to ask myself, who is writing the African story? My story, your story?
  • Loved the story and would definitely recommend it.

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta

  • I love, love, love this book. Love the author and her previous collection of short stories. So before you ask, I will recommend this book.
  • Themes: love, marriage/ relationships, family, homosexuality, loss, identity.
  • I love here writing style and the language she uses also how she develops her characters. You get to really understand them and start to root for them.
  • The novel is extremely complex and multi-layered and is not something you read casually.
  • I have shared before my thoughts on homosexuality and fully stand by the fact that the action is sinful but the individuals are beloved of God and so I read the story more for the literature but not because I stand by or believe in it.
  • Nigeria has the Biafran War that has been included in a lot of literature. This made me think of what contemporary Kenyan or Ugandan writers talk about as that definining moment of our history.

Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

  • This book is a historical account of Kenya as a novel. It takes us through the history of a nation through the story of a house and a family from 1963 to 2007/8 when the post-election violence happened.
  • If I had to give any criticism, its that the book has two very distinct parts and only the very patient will see it to the end and enjoy it. It starts slow and seems patchy and disjointed in certain places then it picks momentum and takes off. Beautiful work!!
  • There are a lot of characters, yes, but they are all interconnected so its quite easy to lace through them.
  • The books themes include: nationalism/ identity, love, passion, corruption, leadership, art/ creativity.
  • Must read to anyone wishing to understand Kenya or planning a visit there.

Have you read anything interesting recently?

 

Book review: Happiness like water

Happiness like WaterChinelo Okparanta

As promised here are my thoughts on this book.

      • For some reason, it is ridiculously priced at Exclusive Books and that’s if you can get it. I ended up getting it from Amazon at half price.
      • A part of me wanted not to compare her to that other famous Nigerian Writer and I tried most of the time.
      • The stories are divided into two parts – stories in the first half are based in Nigeria and the latter in America.
      • The predominant themes to her stories are religion, migration or identity, family dynamics and unexpectedly lesbianism, which begs the question, how many lesbians are there in Nigeria? (This scares me because of the traffic that will be lead to this blog ala this.) But in light of the recent anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda, it does raise the question of how difficult it is to be gay/lesbian in Africa. Culture notwithstanding.
      • She writes very simply but poignantly. A lot of the time, I had such strong feelings after most stories. Which to me is not necessarily a bad thing because I have to react to my stories to truly enjoy them otherwise it’s just not worth it.
      • I loved “On Ohaeto Street” because the description of where they lived reminded me so much of the estate I grew up in back in Nairobi. Very beautiful intro to the book. As with any short story, I was left wondering whether they got back together again?
      • The second story very touching as the wife had to go through the VERY public and then an equally private shame. Interesting also that it had to be the wife with a problem conceiving and not the guy. Like no one ever considered it could be him.
      • I also loved “America”. Quite a lot. I felt of all of them, this had the most potential to be drawn out further but maybe if it was, it wouldn’t have that same feel to it. Possibly. But reading this story, I did ponder on the issue of brain drain and how it was/is to some extent today that you haven’t quite made it in Africauntil you have gone overseas and studied/lived/worked. You can be great BUT and that’s a huge BUT.
      • As an eternal foreigner “Shelter” made me so sad. To be in a bad way and stuck in a foreign country without help or family. Worst nightmare.
      • Tumours and Butterflies” almost made me wail like a sick kid. I was probably quite emotional on the day I read it but it gutted me. Parts of you feel sorry for the mom that she is a battered lady, then you wanna feel sorry for the dad because he has Cancer and then you see him treat his daughter like that and you wanna get in there and beat him up. I thank God I am not a battered wife but her decision to side with her husband over her daughter I cannot even contemplate!
      • The title of the book comes from the story “Grace”. I felt like this story dragged on unnecessarily. However, is Happiness always fleeting … “maybe it is all about being on the verge of joy and similar small moments.” To me happiness is fleeting and joy is perpetual.

I loved this book, which is rare because I cannot be paid enough to read short stories. But this one, I would certainly give a proud 4.5 out of 5.

Happy reading!!

My to-read book list looks like ..

I have so many books on my to-read/ currently being read list!

  1. Happiness like Water – Chinelo Okparanta. This is our read for  this months book club. For short stories, I am quite enjoying them. Will do a review on it later.
  2. 491 Days: Prisoner number 1323/69 – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Motivated to read it after watching the Mandela movie last December. Just really want to make up my own mind about this lady.
  3. We need new names – NoViolet Bulawayo. This novel is doing so well all in the press and I honestly haven’t been this excited to read any book in a while.
  4. Winter of the World – Ken Follet. I won this on an on-line competition and I feared that I would forget the books’ plot after almost two years. FEAR. NOT!! It is just as riveting I hope he is writing book three already.
  5. And the mountains echoed – Khalid Hosseini. So last Wednesday I took some overdue books to the library and stumbled upon a book sale. Being unable to resist it, I looked through and found this book and since it was “quite new” I got it for R15. What a steal!!
  6. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell. I really enjoy his reading although in other quarters he has been criticised for not being rigorous enough 😦
  7. Salt, Sugar and Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Michael Moss. This book got me to reconsider my dislike for digging and reconsider starting my own garden and avoiding processed foods. Simply written and very educative, also very heavily reliant on research and other facts, which is a great read.
  8. The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver. Everytime I see this lady’s writing I want to shout, “Tata Jesus is bangala!” From her novel, The Poisonwood Bible.
  9. The Sculptor of Mapungubwe – Zakes Mda. I have grown to love and respect this guy and his writing so much. CANNOT wait to read his latest offering.
  10. The Reader – Bernhard Schlink. This was on Oprah’s list of books so I also wanted to check it out. I also wanna check out the movie thereafter and compare.

What are you reading now? Or do you plan to read?

PS: Mega shout out to Lupita Nyongo! Kenya Oyeeeee!!!