Coming to Birth by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, book review.

Summary and Review

Coming to Birth by marjorie oludhe macgoye book reviewComing to Birth is a novel written by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, and was first published in 1986. Marjorie moved and settled in Kenya during her early adulthood years. She was quickly integrated into the Luo culture, which is part of the larger African culture. She learnt the way of life, traditions, and customs of the Luo community in the course of her marriage to D. G. W. Macgoye – her husband. The novel gives the clear indication of detailed experiences in the Luo culture and traditions.

Plot

The storyline in the novel follows Kenya’s growth as a young independent nation. The political narrative runs alongside a tale of two young people in love – Martin and Paulina. They are the main characters in the novel, as their lives are seen to change as the events and happenings of the storyline shift and turn. Martin belongs to the working-class category in society, while Paulina is at first portrayed as a naïve young lady with little experience concerning the ‘ways of the city’. The love between Paulina and Martina captures the readers’ attention. Neither Martin nor Paulina openly express their affection  to each other, but rather through spontaneous acts of kindness, as seen from Martin to Paulina, revealing the presence of love. At the beginning of the novel, their love is ‘innocent and young’. It later faces the challenge of childlessness in marriage. The Marriage does not stand. Paulina is not able to sustain pregnancy full term, and experiences miscarriage several times. Martin is frustrated by his numerous yet unsuccessful attempts at getting a child by Paulina. They eventually separate, and Martin engages in extra-marital affairs. The story of Kenya’s ‘Coming to Birth’ is marked by the ‘coming of Uhuru’ and heightened expectations. However, dissatisfaction grows steadily, as political assassinations of senior political officers in the reigning government continues to take place. Riots and chaos characterize Kenya’s political space.

In the course of separation between Martin and Paulina, each attempts to have a child with other partners. Paulina gets a child by Simon, and names the child Okeyo. Perhaps the child’s naming is a way or reminding her of the commitment she made to Martin. Unfortunately, the child dies during political protests in Kisumu. Martin fails in his attempts of getting a child with other ladies. The hopelessness and despair seen in the relationship between Martin and Paulina is similar to that of prevailing politics in the country. The citizens seemingly protest for getting less than that which they bargained for, and neo-colonialism is most likely to take center stage in Kenya, as a young independent nation.

Later, Paulina and Martin are seen to come back together. Paulina is no longer the naïve lady seen at the beginning of the novel, and Martin is no longer the confident and ‘in-control’ individual depicted at the beginning of the story. The events in their marriage have shaped them into altogether different individuals. Paulina is empowered and able to voice her stand. Martin seems passive to the political and social events around him, a near state of disillusionment. The hope of achieving the true meaning of freedom in independent Kenya is finally ‘coming to Birth’. Citizens have the hope for a new turn in leadership.

Events in the novel turn for the better when Paulina informs Martin of her pregnancy. She is pregnant by Martin, and is happy about it. However, she recounts her past miscarriages, and decides to hold her Joy, yet. She politely cautions Martin of being overjoyed at the thought of having a child, but under the same breath expresses her optimism of a promising future. Kenya is also ‘Coming to Birth’ with the experience of stability in the political domain. The marriage between Martin and Paulina seems to stabilize, at last. Symbolically, the author offers hope for a politically stable and peaceful Kenya as seen between Martin and Paulina.

Review

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye works skillfully at depicting reality in a subtle manner. The political situation in Kenya is more of reality and contains verifiable facts. The author captures these facts and events, through the performance of a literary stance. The employment of imagery, symbols and ideas that are relative to the African experience lays the foundation for the success of her work. It is thus a masterpiece, written simply, clearly, and skillfully, to communicate the author’s thoughts and experiences concerning culture, politics and tradition.

Themes:

Male dominance/Chauvinism: Men are perceived as holding positions of influence in society. Martin, Mr. M., and Simon are some of the male characters with special privileges in society. Paulina’s interaction with each male character involved subjection to social ideologies that place the lady at a lower position of privilege than the man.

Feminism: Paulina, Chelagat and Mrs. M are some of the women who stand out in the novel. Their efforts result in the enhancement of women’s position in society are remarkable. They are seen to evolve positively throughout the novel, sometimes almost at the expense of the men’s wellbeing.

Political Betrayal: The prevailing politics in the country lead to disillusioned citizens. The initial hope placed on the government has diminished, and resentment towards the government continues to increase.

Perseverance: Throughout the novel Paulina exhibits perseverance. In the end, she gets what she wants – a child. Perseverance is also depicted in her development into a city woman. She gracefully overcomes the numerous challenges that combat her, and proceeds to have the life she wanted.

Marital unfaithfulness: Several characters, such as Martin, Paulina, Mr. M and Simon engage in extra-marital affairs. They put the integrity of their marriage unions at risk, through engagement in marital unfaithfulness.

Disillusionment: This sets in when life takes a different turn, from that which was expected. Martin sets the clear example of disillusionment, when politics in the country seem to deteriorate. He seems unhappy, and has little interest in other activities in life.

Characters:

Martin Were, Paulina Akelo, Mr. M., Mrs. M., Chelagat, Joyce, Fauzia, Susana, Racheal, and Mrs. Okelo.

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Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba, book review

Summary and Review

Scarlet Song Novel by Mariama BaScarlet Song is a novel by Mariama Ba, which was first published in 1981. The story line in the novel follows a tale of love and betrayal, featuring the lives of Ousmane Gueye and Mireille. Issues touching on women’s experiences in African patriarchal society take center stage in the course of the narrative.

The story opens with the introduction to one of the main characters in the novel – Ousmane Gueye. Mariama Ba describes Ousmane’s humbling childhood experiences while growing up. The author also introduces Mireille, Ousmane’s girlfriend and later, wife. Ousmane and Mireille fall in love and their love blossoms over time, growing stronger as they grow older. However, their family background pose a challenge to the blossoming relationship.

Ousmane is from a financially struggling family, leaving him with the only options of hard work and commitment as the way out of his family struggles. He meets Mireille. She is the daughter of a French diplomat to the country. Mireille’s upbringing in affluence distances her childhood experiences from those of Ousmane. However, love continually grows between the two youngsters, arousing conflict between their families. Ousmane’s parents are not supportive of his idea of marrying Mireille, while Mireille’s parents are also opposed to the relationship, or supposed marriage.

Ousmane successfully works his way up the academic ladder and becomes a respected scholar in academic circles. He goes ahead and marries Mireille. Their marriage is characterized by huddles, as each of them attempts to overcome the cultural differences of either side. Mireille compromises on numerous cultural aspects in the course of her marriage to Gueye. she sacrifices her preferences and accustomed lifestyle for the success of her marriage. Ousmane, in contrast, does little to sacrifice or conform to his wife’s preferences and need for comfort. Eventually, he develops unique interest in Ouleymatou, a childhood ‘lady-friend’. He engages in extra-marital affair with Ouleymatou.

Mireille eventually learns of her husband’s unfaithfulness to their marriage vows. She losses control of herself and enters into a state of mental derangement. In her experience, she kills their young child and goes on to stab Ousmane several times on the back. Thereafter, Mireille is deported to France.

Review

The novel is generously toned with messages of cultural contact and reaction. Ousmane and Mireille represent the different cultural worlds of the French and African. Symbolically, the interaction attempted association of African and western cultures is characterized by numerous challenges. African traditions and culture have distinct aspects, which have a hold on Africans. The complete disregard for African traditional ways, as well as unfounded disregard for western civilization is likely to result in a chaotic society. ideally, Mariama Ba advocates for the merger between African and western cultures, on the grounds of understanding and mutual respect.

The patriarchal nature of the African society also receives attention in the course of the narrative. The disregard for the plight of women and unconditional tolerance for men’s oppressive conduct towards the women. In more ways than not, the novel assumes a feminist perspective in the course of narration.

Characters in the novel include: Ousmane Gueye, Mireille, Djibril Gueye, Yaye Khady, Ouleymatou.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, book review

Summary and Review

Americanah Novel Book CoverAmericanah is a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published in 2013. The critically acclaimed novel addresses the racial and cultural conflict between Africans and the rest of the world. Americanah is part of a ‘themed book series’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her exploration of African cultural identity in the face of modernity and westernization. In a single twist of her literary creativity, the author focuses on themes such as feminism, cultural identity, westernization and love.

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Book review: Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee

Summary and Review

Disgrace novel by J M CoetzeeJohn M. Coetzee, in his novel, Disgrace (1999), explores the challenges that members of European community face in post-apartheid South Africa. The author focuses on the career and private life of the main character in the novel, David Lurie, as a pointer to the injustices meted against European minorities within the South African society. It would occur to one as common knowledge, for reference and attribution of social oppression and injustices as directed towards African individuals within the given African state. However, in the course of the novel, Coetzee manages to weave out a clear picture on the sufferings of European individuals, as they are faced with animosity and are forced out their homes and property. read the complete review »

A Meeting in the Dark by Ngungi Wa Thing’o: Book Review

Summary and Review

A meeting in the dark by James NgugiA meeting in the dark is a short story by Kenya’s prolific writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The story is set in Kenya, among the Kikuyu community. The story is about a young man called John, who is among the few young men in his community to have acquired the ‘white man’s education’. In the story, John is revered and looked upon by many members of his community as the perfect representation of a ‘true African son’. John had managed to complete all the levels of education available in the country at that time and was set to leave for further education in a neighbouring country. read the complete review »

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi, Book Review

The Concubine by Elechi AmadiThe concubine is a fictitious novel by Nigerian author Elechi Amadi. The novel was first published in 1966 after which the author published a number of other literary works; some of which include: The Great Ponds (1969), Sunset in Biafra (1973), The Slave (1978) and Estrangement (1986). It is however, this novel (The Concubine) which stands as the authors’ crowning achievement.

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Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba, Summary and Book Review

Plot Summary

Scarlet Song Novel by Mariama BaThe novel, Scarlet Song, by Mariama Ba, focuses on the theme of love, and narrates the story of two youngsters. Ousmane Gueye (a Senegalese) and Mireille (daughter of a French diplomat). The two young people are from highly diverse backgrounds, but are bound together by love.

At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Ousmane Gueye. The writer gives a description of the kind of environment he grew up in – a humble background. Mireille, however, has different experiences in life. read the complete review »