Africa – 4 Countries – 4 Books
Africa has been a neglected continent as far as my reading is concerned. Except Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I have not ventured out much in Africa. Therefore, this year I decided to read books set in different African countries.
Botswana is a familiar ground, thanks to Maa Ramotswe’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I also learnt about Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu series and tried it with The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu. The story covers murder of a popular teacher who is a Zimbabwean refugee. As Kubu digs deeper, he realises that the teacher had a dual identity. He had ties with Zimbabwean revolutionary movement and was part of grotesque massacre that took some years ago. These are deep wounds and the murder, near the time of Zimbabwean President’s visit to Botswana hints at some sinister political plot. Added to it is the drugs trade in South Africa where cartels have made the porous border between Botswana and Zambia as their new route.
Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the Gods is about the tradition of offering girl child to priests as trokosi or Wives of the Gods. This is similar to the disturbing practice of Devdasi (Servant of the God) in India where these young girls often get exploited. A young trainee doctor, an outspoken critic of the tradition is murdered. Detective Darko Dawson is sent to investigate the crime in the village where his mother’s sister lives and from where his mother had disappeared twenty five years ago. As Darko tries to find the killer, he also starts piecing together the mystery of his mother’s disappearance.
Richard Cromption’s The Honey Guide shows that all societies share same traits – good as well as bad. The fault lines are everywhere, in India it is religion and caste, in Kenya it is the tribes that divide society. People, even though of different race, religion and creed are alike in their greed and bigotry. Detective Mollel, former Masai warrior is an outlier, a celebrated national hero who saved many lives during bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi and lost his wife in the same. Yet he has been shunted to traffic police for being outspoken against his corrupt colleagues. Mollel is brought in to investigate the murder of a young prostitute. The atmosphere in Nairobi is tense as the country is divided between different tribes during the Presidency elections and nobody really cares about a dead prostitute except Mollel. Mollel’s investigation pitches him against an influential preacher who may have something to do with the dead girl.
Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is about the practice of polygamy in contemporary Nigeria. It’s the story of Baba Segi whose four wives and their children make up the household. When Baba Segi’s youngest wife fails to conceive, he takes her to the hospital for check up and the family starts to unravel from that point. The story takes us through the interplay between his wives, their attempt to maintain upper hand over each other and to be the favorite wife of Baba Segi so that they can get the lion’s share of his attention and shower of favors.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.