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Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
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I've never read anything set in Uganda, so I was excited to read Kintu after seeing various positive reviews.

The novel opens with a brief chapter about a man's death in 2004, and then rewinds all the way back to 1750 with the tale of a Ppookino, or provincial leader, called Kintu Kidda. This section tells how a curse was laid on Kintu and his descendants, and the rest of the novel moves through time to explore how this curse affects various members of the clan.

So far, so supernatural - or so you might think. Rather than being a typical epic fantasy or historical novel, Kintu is more of an exploration of what it means to be Ugandan, particularly if you're male and living under the heavy burden of patriarchal responsibility, touching on issues like mental illness, abuse, incest and more.

It's refreshing that, although Kintu treads through recent history, colonialism is not a huge theme, and Idi Amin is only mentioned in passing a few times. Instead, you get more of a focus on Ugandans' struggle to reclaim its own identity as a nation.

For all of these weighty issues, though, I found Kintu to have a gentle humour throughout, too. The characters are so well-written - all of them, from the Ppookino to the girl left on her neglectful aunt's doorstep, really step off the page as living, breathing people. And it's important to note that women do play a big role in this novel, even though most of the main protagonists are men.

There's so much I could say about Kintu, but really, you should just read it for yourself. I read afterwards that while the release of Kintu has been much celebrated in Uganda, the novel was initially rejected by British publishers who thought it wasn't palatable enough for their readers. I hope the growing success of the book here serves as a big middle finger salute to those publishers. I for one can't wait to read more of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's work. ( )
2 vote mooingzelda | Feb 19, 2018 |
Mostly good except the ending. I've had this in my "to read" list for awhile but finally pushed it up to the top after spotting it again as a recommendation and seeing the author was originally from Uganda and currently lives in the United Kingdom (according to the flap). I'll admit that I was somewhat hesitant after reading how publishers were uneasy about taking a chance on the book but overall it was a good read.
 
If someone asked me to describe what the book was like, I'd say it reminded me of Yaa Gyasi's 'Homegoing' (following a family line and what happens to them) and Susan Barker's 'The Incarnations' (looking at events in a country's history with supernatural elements) and could be a cross between the two. Author Makumbi takes the reader though an epic looking at the history of Uganda though a family's descendants. Topics from pre-colonial Uganda, AIDS, Idi Amin, the rise of religious cults (? it certainly read like one), modern day (book ends of the book take place in 2004), etc.
 
I was somewhat intimidated because I don't know much about Uganda but I still ended up enjoying the book for the most part. It would have been helpful to have had a family tree (seriously, while there are really only a few characters per section that you need to follow this would have been helpful) and a map. Sometimes I had trouble telling people apart or wasn't sure if this particular name I was reading would be important later on.
 
What ended up killing it for me was the ending. There are several stories and they vary in terms of "resolution" and/or being just plain interesting. They come together in the end but by then for some reason the book began to lose me. I'm not sure if it was because I was so caught up in how the story was being told before and it was too abrupt of a shift or something else. So in reality I think I'd say it's a 3.5 but my issues could be just a personal preference thing. 
 
But I'd still recommend it. It was an absorbing read. Would say it'd be a *great* long airplane flight read/long layovers. And depending on your mood, it might not be a bad vacation read either. Despite the history that's covered and the subject material, it isn't too gory or graphic but be warned that topics such as child abuse (sexual and physical), incest, religious fanaticism, war, colonialism etc. all appear as topics. The book opens with a death via a mob. Again, this hopefully wouldn't put one off as a reader but Makumbi doesn't shy away from these topics either. I bought it and didn't mind.  ( )
1 vote acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
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'First published in Kenya in 2014 to critical and popular acclaim, Kintu is a modern classic, a multilayered narrative that reimagines the history of Uganda through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan. Divided into six sections, the novel begins in 1750, when Kintu Kidda sets out for the capital to pledge allegiance to the new leader of the Buganda Kingdom. Along the way, he unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. In an ambitious tale of a clan and a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu's descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future." --back cover… (more)

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