How great to have a novel of Kenyan's history written by a Kenyan. This one is told from the prospective of the men (both the British overseers and the Kenyan and Indian workers) building the railroad from the coast to Lake Victoria. It's filled with well drawn characters and is a joy to read.
Dance of the Jakaranda (Paperback)
Arrives by Wed, Jun 3
Ships to San Leandro, 1919 Davis St
About This Item
Peter Kimani has been nominated for the 2018 Grand Prix des Associations Littéraires, Catégorie Belles-Lettres
Nominated for the 2018/2019 People's Book Prize
"This funny, perceptive and ambitious work of historical fiction by a Kenyan poet and novelist explores his country's colonial past and its legacy through the stories of three men involved with the building of a railroad linking Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean--what the Kikuyu called the 'Iron Snake' and the British called the 'Lunatic Express.'"
--New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
"Kimani has done a game job managing the carpentry of this ambitious novel, bringing great skill to the task of deploying multiple story lines, huge leaps back and forth in time and the withholding and distribution of information...Once Kimani has his plotlines all set, his writing relaxes, and it's here that you can see his raw talent...I have never read a novel about [Kenya] that's so funny, so perceptive, so subversive and so sly."
--New York Times Book Review
"In his American debut, Kimani illustrates the discordant history of East Indians in Kenya through a fabulously complicated set of intriguing characters and events...Highlighted by its exquisite voice, Kimani's novel is a standout debut."
"Kimani's descriptive and inventive prose recounts personal stories of love and tragedy within a context of racial hierarchies and the fallout of colonial rule...Babu's story feels weighted by history in a way that will remind readers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work...Kimani's complex novel will leave readers questioning the meanings of citizenship and belonging during an era of significant social upheaval in Kenya's history."
"African colonialism is confronted in this subtle, multilayered Kenyan tale...Lyrical and powerful...Kimani weaves together a bitter, hurtful past and hopeful present in this rich tale of Kenyan history and culture, the railroad, and the men and women whose lives it profoundly affected...This is a thoughtful story about a country's imperialist past."
"The characters are human, teaching us that even someone who does wrong is not all bad, and Kimani writes with such vivid detail that one can easily visualize the vast scenery. Reminiscent of Iman Verjee's Who Will Catch Us as We Fall, this novel will appeal to readers of historical and literary fiction."
Set in the shadow of Kenya's independence from Great Britain, Dance of the Jakaranda reimagines the special circumstances that brought black, brown and white men together to lay the railroad that heralded the birth of the nation.
The novel traces the lives and loves of three men--preacher Richard Turnbull, the colonial administrator Ian McDonald, and Indian technician Babu Salim--whose lives intersect when they are implicated in the controversial birth of a child. Years later, when Babu's grandson Rajan--who ekes out a living by singing Babu's epic tales of the railway's construction--accidentally kisses a mysterious stranger in a dark nightclub, the encounter provides the spark to illuminate the three men's shared, murky past.
With its riveting multiracial, multicultural cast and diverse literary allusions, Dance of the Jakaranda could well be a story of globalization. Yet the novel is firmly anchored in the African oral storytelling tradition, its language a dreamy, exalted, and earthy mix that creates new thresholds of identity, providing a fresh metaphor for race in contemporary Africa.
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|Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)|
5.20 x 1.10 x 8.20 Inches
This story is extraord...
This story is extraordinarily well-crafted. It's like a spiral whose circles wind tightly from the previous circle, coming back to pick up a piece of the narrative then moving onward before winding back again. The Dance of the Jakaranda is the dance of the people who come to the British East Africa Protectorate to build a railroad, and their interaction with the people who already inhabit the land. The stories of the characters, British, Indian and African, intertwine in unexpected ways. It takes two generations for the story to be resolved (or is it resolved?), and for the secrets to become known. Through the people, we see the birth of the new country that becomes Kenya.
The gigantic snake wa...
"The gigantic snake was a train and the year was 1901, an age when white men were still discovering the world for their kings and queens in faraway lands. So when the railway superintendent, or simply Master as he was known to many, peered out the window of his first class cabin that misty morning, his mind did not register the dazzled villagers who dropped their hoes and took off, or led their herds away from the grazing fields in sheer terror of the strange creature cutting through their land Neither did Master share in the 'tamasha' boom from across the coaches where British, Indian and African workers - all in their respective compartments - were celebrating the train's maiden voyage. Master was absorbed by the landscape that looked remarkably different from how he remembered it from his previous trip." p 2 This historical novel written by Kenyan author Peter Kimani, depicts several key points in Kenyan history. Time periods alternate between the telling of the building of the railroad under the sometimes brutal colonial white rule, to the early 60's when Kenya became a self-ruling nation under the "Big Man". We see the stories of African workers , the white master in charge of building the railroad named Ian McDonald , a white missionary John Turnbull, , and the Indians who came to Kenya to work on the railway, and who stayed on, often because their country Punjabi disappeared into India and Pakistan and they had no country to return if they wanted to leave. Ian McDonald, denied a title from the queen for his accomplishment of punching through the railway, is instead given his choice of a thousand acres of land. He chooses a prime location, between two natural wonders. His estate is known as Jakaranda ; and it evolves through many incarnations - from baronial estate and ambitious farmland, to wildlife preserve, hunting preserve for rich whites, and a night club where we see a musician grandson or one of the original railway workers . As the estate changes, so also do the people in the story until their stories are not separate but intertwine in often secret ways. Overall, I enjoyed this story although I did find the shifting time frames a bit confusing. Author Kimani paints an interesting story of the history of the country and the people. I definitely walk away with more knowledge of the region and respect for its multi-cultural past.
Three and a half stars...
Three and a half stars. In Dance of the Jakaranda, Peter Kimani tells the story of three men who were involved with the building of the railway across Kenya in the early 1900s. One is the former British army officer leading the construction project, one is a missionary and the third is an Indian laborer. The story is told over a span of almost 70 years as these men interact from the days of the railway to Kenyan independence in 1963. Along the way, we see the weaknesses of these men play out, each in their own way. Kimani effectively describes the three-tiered society-white, brown and black-that defined the British colonial era. With great construction, he shows just how flawed that structure was-not just because of the order, but because of the divisions in the first place. Even more admirably, he does it without beating the reader over the head with it. He doesn't endorse it but doesn't defend it either. He presents it and lets us draw our own conclusions. He has some great side-stories and descriptions-I often found myself rather absorbed in the story. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to carry the story for me. While I enjoy reading about African history, the story felt unpolished and meandering. The ending, while satisfying, felt almost too convenient by the time he finished telling it. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book with the expectation I would provide an honest review.
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