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A Grain of Wheat

This book was very interesting.Despite Nguguis flashback format A Grain Of Wheat is certainly an attention keeper. Kenya at the brink of Uhuru (freedom) from the British, as experienced through the eyes of some interesting and greatly entertaining characters. Amazingly in the midst of this historical event the story is filled with love and betrayal.

A Grain of Wheat is a remarkable book, which manages to intertwine personal tragedies and joys with national ideologies and events quite effortlessly. The novel is partly the story of a nation - of Kenyas (ultlimately successful) struggle to rid itself of British domination - but mainly the book deals with the toll that this long fight has taken on individuals; the impact, both for good and evil, that it has made on individual lives.

Another reviewer mentioned that the books fluid chronology - which keeps flashing back and forth between present and past - made the book difficult to follow. For me, this style of writing only enhanced the books strengths - throughout the course of the story you are allowed to see the same events through many different sets of eyes (and it is amazing how different the same thing can look to a British Army officer and a Kenyan freedom fighter.)

To sum up - A Grain of Wheat works very well, both as an exploration of Kenyas painful history, and as a realistic look at the toll that any war will take on the people who fight in, and live through, it. Definitely reccomended!

I loved this book. The story itself is compelling, detailing both African and European characters perspectives on Kenyans struggle for independence from Britain. Just for the story alone, the book is an intriguing page-turner that completely satisfies. But beyond that, it has a powerful and inspirational moral message that I have taken with me and hope never to forget.

Each of the major characters commits an act of betrayal to attain a greater goal, whether its the British officer who wants to create a happy, harmonious colony and finds himself torturing and murdering in pursuit of this vision, or whether its the Kenyan rebel who betrays his comrade to save his own life, feeling that he must survive to perform important tasks for his people.

Each one chooses less-than-perfect means to an imagined end. But what we and they learn, is that the "end" never comes, and we are left living day-to-day in the rubble of our "means." The betrayals that crisscross the novel scar all the characters with heavy losses, representative of the losses and betrayals that scarred Kenya as it stood on the threshhold of independence, divided between those who had collaborated with British occupation and those who had rebelled. And yet the final note is one of hope, that somehow reconciliation and transcendence of past injuries can be attempted.

I took to heart two messages: that those of us who struggle for justice in todays world must never betray our own principles in pursuit of some supposed higher good--because we too will be left only with our betrayals and no higher good in sight. And, that even after betrayals and years of conflict, there is still a spark of hope for renewal.
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