Novel set in Uganda – Kololo Hill by Neema Shah
Ugandan intrigue on Kololo Hill
This novel is set during Idi Amin’s Ugandan Asian expulsion of 1972. That’s quite the setting. quite the premise. Given the importance and nod to history, I was drawn to reading this. I like books where you learn about history through (semi) fictional events and characters who embody so many people like them in real life.
The reality of living through Idi Amin’s rule…well this book really does this justice as it makes the story very much a human one. This ruler gave his people less than 90 days to leave the country under the threat of violence, rape and even murder.
Setting: Ugandan history
Transports the reader to Idi Amin’s Uganda
A remarkable novel and one to remember.
Asha is a new bride who soon realises the level and seriousness of these threats. At the start of the novel we find out that she is in danger. She has seen something that makes it very dangerous for her. Silence is dangerous as is telling someone what she knows. However, silence seems to be the lesser of two evils.
Every one of the characters seems to have a dilemma of epic proportions. This is their country but they are being forced out. They have no choice but to survive. Survival is everything. Life in Kampala is on a knife edge and it’s painfully hard to read how people were so persecuted and worse. When you think that this actually happened although fictionalise in the book, your heart bleeds.
I think the strength of this novel is that you meet and stay with many of the characters and get to know them inside and out. they are so well drawn and vivid. They live in this city, this country and this is their home. How do you drag someone away from this? How does someone survive being dragged away from this? Heartbreaking.
For me, the setting and level of detail in the novel really helps bring out the story of the country, the history and its people. The language here showcases the wonderful landscape and culture with details you will be amazed at as the words shine a focus on details that make this novel sing. In the same way, poltics and history show themselves in the way the Asian Ugandans and the Black Ugandans are at war with each other. To learn so much about a country via a book in this way is very insightful.
The second half of the novel takes the journey of these people all the way to England. The characters are displaced and confused. Their journey is evoked by language, culture shock and all the challenges of moving to another country. Add forced expulsion to this of course. they arrive in London of the 1970s and once again, the setting and landscape, history and culture are evoked with stylish aplomb.
The contrast between the two parts of the novel, between the two countries and cultures is huge but beautifully showcases the reality of this situation.
I think this novel deserves to be read by so many people for so many reasons. To think that it’s a debut too! I will definately be in the queue when this author’s next book comes out.
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Kololo Hill