Tag Archives: NoViolet Bulawayo

Book Review: The Book of Memory

Image result for the book of memory

The story that you have asked me to tell you does not begin with the pitiful ugliness of Lloyd’s death. It begins on a long-ago day in August when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man.

Memory, the narrator of Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being sentenced for murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between past and present, the 2009 Guardian First Book Award–winning writer Petina Gappah weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate, and the treachery of memory.

The book reminded me of the book, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo particularly when she talks of the Harare township where Memory grew up. The characterisation of township life was totally believable and reminded me of my experience growing up. The book also does a good job of personifying the life behind bars and the dynamics of womanhood and female friendships.

Overall, Gappah is a lovely story teller, she builds it up slowly and steadily then lets it slow down later. I loved the pace. It totally sucked me in and I read it over a day or two. Then at the end I just hugged the book and smiled. The story continually switches between a flashback to the past and present time. Despite this, it was still easy to follow the broader tale.

Common themes raised in the book include: language, memory, family (siblings, mother-daughter, husband-wife), religion, colonialism(or race as a subset). Various questions I had though while reading the book include:

  • In light of the decolonised free education in our lifetime protests currently happening in South African universities, is the best education White/ Western and in a foreign (ex-colonialist) language? To what extent has this changed? Would you/ I feel comfortable to take our kid to a native school ala Spilt Milk? I am not sure. In terms of decolonising language, the best book I have read on this topic so far is Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
  • The book also touches on Africa’s complicated history with the White Man. Was Lloyd African? Why because he spoke the language and understood the culture / had allowed himself to be immersed in it fully? If we contrast Lloyd and Alexandra the sister, who is more African?
  • Colonialism and the White Mans’ burden also comes across when we look at the motives of Lloyd in adopting Memory.
  • That duality of existence that I find so intriguing about South Africans and now Zimbabwe. That deep belief in ancestry and mainstream religion or a more modern life. I grew up raised in a predominantly Bible-focused culture and so this duality is totally alien to me.
  • Do we trust our memories? Is it ever as we think or are there things we remember that as we have gotten older we have to come realise are not as they were. As the last child in my home, I have some clear memories of myself as a child but to be honest, I know that a lot of them are mainly based on what I have been told and not necessarily what I particularly remember. What are your earliest memories?

In closing, I am not sure why they did not translate the Shona bits which made me wonder who the real audience is here. It was quite frustrating for me a non-Shona speaker.

A little bit about myself

Afternoon me

For no reason at all, I would like to share the following information about myself.

Reading: Recently finished We Need New Names (NoViolet Bulawayo) and I needed something light so I picked up Minding Frankie (Maeve Binchy) and next Untitled (Kgebetli Moele)

Listening: No new albums at the moment rehashing some oldies but goodies: Miracle – Third Day and Love in the future – John Legend

Watching: Waiting for the new Scandal and How to get away with murder. In the meantime, I have really gotten into My Kitchen Rules on telly.

Eating: Aubergines, I have never tried figs but I am lusting after them, Couscous. My oven is not working – neither the plates nor the oven so my diet has become very limited.

Cooking: This week – Risotto; Sausage and bean stew: Pumpkin and sage pasta

Buying: I want to get myself a pair of blue jeans and some make up this month.

Anticipating: Christmas but for now I will settle on the weekend

Dreading: A 10km run on the 2nd of November

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!!!