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The River Between (1965)

by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

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7102032,389 (3.69)1 / 109
"Explores life on the Makuyu and Kameno ridges of Kenya in the early days of white settlement. Faced with an alluring new religion and 'magical' customs, the Gikuyu people are torn between those who fear the unknown and those who see beyond it. Some follow Joshua and his fiery brand of Christianity. Others proudly pursue tribal independence. In the midst of this disunity stands Waiyaki, a dedicated visionary born to a line of prophets. He struggles to educate the tribe--a task he sees as the only unifying link between the two factions--but his plans for the future raise issue which will determine both his and the Gikuyu's survival"--Back cover.… (more)
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» See also 109 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
3.5, I did like the book and I learned a lot from it but you can tell its the author's first novel. The first half of the novel is a classic coming-of-age tale with a practical realism meeting the magical memory of the Kenyan hilllands. It plays out important issues for Africans under colonialism, dealing very directly with the complex issue of female circumcision. But the second half of the book is too burdened by repetitive exposition, and morality play style allusions for it to really shine, although certainly, the potential is there. The book is worth reading and I look forward to reading other of Thiong'o's works. ( )
  Aidan767 | Feb 1, 2024 |
The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o is about the Gikuyu people of Kenya who lived in a remote area of ridges and valleys. The time is during the early days of white settlement, some of the people were lured by the new religion and “magical” customs and so they followed Joshua, a Gikuyu convert who preached Christianity. Others wanted to keep to the tribal customs and old ways. Battle lines over female circumcision have been drawn as the Christians try to outlaw the pagan practice while the traditionalists feel it is an important part of their culture.

Firmly in the middle stands Waiyaki a young man who has been educated by the missionaries but belongs to a family of visionaries who foresaw the coming of the white man and the turmoil, changes and confusion that would arise with their arrival. To make matters more complicated he falls in love with Nyambura, the Christian daughter of the fiery pastor, Joshua. Waiyaki believes that education is the answer but he also wants to honour his father’s wishes without really understanding what his father was trying to say.

[The River Between] stands as a social critique as there is, of course, no answer to the problems that the Gikuyu were facing. The two factions were both doomed as once colonialism and Christianity get a firm hold and white settlers arrive in their numbers, the rift will continue to grow and tribal independence along with their customs and culture will disappear. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Sep 29, 2022 |
What a hard book to review. Almost fable-like, it describes a black savior trying to protect his people from the invading white people. It’s beautiful in its telling. Conversely, it praises female circumcision as an important rite signifying the tribe’s independence from the “evil” Christians. At once I want to love and hate this book. It was written by a Kenyan man in the early 1960s before circumcision was decried for its brutality. But the author was considered a “progressive.” Ha! I think he portrayed the gross outcome of the practice in the story but I can’t get past this statement supporting its continuation: “Circumcision of women was not important as a physical operation. It was what it did inside a person. It could not be stopped overnight. Patience and, above all, education, were needed.” I still give the book a pick; it’s an authentic viewpoint told well even if I find parts of it despicable. ( )
  KarenMonsen | Aug 1, 2022 |
Zsenánt vagy sem, én már annyira hozzánőttem a nyugati típusú szépirodalomhoz, hogy szükségem van a cselekmény komplexitására a mű élvezetéhez – vagy ha az nincs, legalább a stílus vagy a gondolat újszerűségére. Nos, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o könyvét igazából ezek közül egyik sem jellemzi – ami például a stílus újszerűségének tűnik, az egyszerűen helyrajzi következmény, és abból fakad, hogy az író kenyai, és Kenyáról ír*. Amúgy ez egy szimpla vonalvezetésű Rómeó és Júlia-sztori, Waiyaki és Nyambura szerelmének története, akiknek igazából találkozniuk sem szabadott volna, hiszen annyi minden választja el őket. Az író két csoportkonfliktust hoz játékba: egyrészt ütközik a kereszténység és az ősi vallás, másrészt pedig egymásnak feszül a haladó és a maradó (vagy haladi és maradi?) gondolkodás. No most a shakespear-i alaptörténet fő tanulsága számomra (azon túl, hogy nem tanácsos elsietni egy öngyilkosságot sem) az, hogy két ellenséges közösség közül nem feltétlenül van valamelyiknek igaza, Jóra és Rosszra való felosztásuk önkényes, és nézőpont kérdése. Mi több: nem is beszélhetünk igazságról abban az esetben, ha ezek az ideológiák elválasztanak egymástól két egymáshoz vonzódó lényt – helyesebb ilyenkor talán a fanatizmus szót használni. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o szépen, rutinosan, helyenként megrázóan viszi végig ezt az ívet a végkifejletig, szavunk se lehet rá. Csak éppen végig ott motoszkált a fejemben, hogy ha ez a történet nem Kenyában, hanem mondjuk Iowában játszódik, Nyambura és Waiyaki helyet pedig mondjuk Mary és James a két főszereplő, akkor egy ügyes, de nem egyedülálló young adults lenne a végeredmény. Ha van benne vérfarkas, akkor ki is adja a Könyvmolyképző.

* Paradox módon az a tény, hogy egy kenyai ír Kenyáról, oda vezet, hogy evidensnek vesz és nem részletez olyan dolgokat, amik neki kenyaiként (gikujuként) nyilván természetesek, ugyanakkor én szívesen tudnék meg róluk többet. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
A moving and insightful account of the adaptation of individuals and whole communities in colonial Kenya to the imposed culture of the occupiers. A wonderful book with a potent conclusion. ( )
  sfj2 | Mar 6, 2022 |
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The two ridges lay side by side. One was Kameno, the other was Makuyu. between them was a valley. It was called the valley of life. Behind Kameno and Makuyu were many more valleys and ridges, lying without any discernible plan. They just slept, the big deep sleep of their Creator.
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"Explores life on the Makuyu and Kameno ridges of Kenya in the early days of white settlement. Faced with an alluring new religion and 'magical' customs, the Gikuyu people are torn between those who fear the unknown and those who see beyond it. Some follow Joshua and his fiery brand of Christianity. Others proudly pursue tribal independence. In the midst of this disunity stands Waiyaki, a dedicated visionary born to a line of prophets. He struggles to educate the tribe--a task he sees as the only unifying link between the two factions--but his plans for the future raise issue which will determine both his and the Gikuyu's survival"--Back cover.

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