Reviews

Kintu, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

lepasseportlitteraire's review

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adventurous challenging dark emotional informative mysterious reflective sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

Do you like historical fiction, epic stories and multiple narrators? This book have it all, and more !
The book is divided into 6 books, all centering on a member of the Kintu descendance, starting from Kintu Kadda, the leader of the Buddu province in the kingdom of Buganda. During a trip to meet the new Kabaka (King) of Buganda, however, something horrible happens casting a curse on the Kintu descendance. The 5 books following the Kintu Kadda one will show how the curse has affected the Kintu descendance.
The writing of Makumbi is majestic, to the point that I immediately got myself another of her books while I was still reading Kintu. She manages to tell a complex story without becoming repetitive neither boring, and this was the only time I didn’t end up hating the presence of a genealogy tree at the beginning of the book.
As I said, this book has it all: an astonishing storytelling, suspense, attaching characters and also historical knowledge, I can’t even start to imagine the amount of work Makumbi put in this. If I had to only choose a word to describe Kintu, it would be MONUMENTAL 

cyndin's review

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4.0

Convoluted but brilliant, Kintu tells the story of the man Kintu of the late 18th century and how he brought a curse to his descendants. We then trace the story of several of those descendants in the present day as a few plan a huge family reunion in the Ugandan town where it all began.

Seriously, the book needs a family tree. And some maps. And a reader's guide. It's the sort of book I can see devoting an entire college course to. As an ordinary reader, one with essentially zero knowledge of Ugandan culture, I found it very difficult to keep track of the characters and to understand much of the significance.

None of my difficulties diminish the book itself. Perhaps I'll read it again in a couple of years and go another layer deeper.

psayff's review against another edition

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In this brilliant piece of art, makumbi wove a compelling and flowing story of Africa before and after colonization. It is complicated tale of a curse flowing through lineage.

lou13st's review against another edition

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adventurous mysterious reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

clairewords's review against another edition

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5.0

1750 Buddu Province, Buganda

Kintu is the name of a clan, the original clan elder Kintu Kidda fell in love with Nnakato, an identical twin (the younger) and her family refuse to allow him to marry her unless he married her sister Babirye first. He refused. They resisted. He relented.
Kintu's mind lingered on the primal conflict that led to a soul splitting into twins. No matter how he looked at it, life was tragic. If the soul is at conflict even at this remotest level of existence, what chance do communities have? This made the Ganda custom of marrying female identical twins to the same man preposterous. It goes against their very nature, Kintu thought. Twins split because they cannot be one, why keep them as such in life? Besides, identical men did not marry the same woman.

Babirye gave him four sets of twins while Nnakato was unable to conceive. When the twins, raised as if they belonged to Nnakto were adults, Nnakato finally gave birth to a son Baale. They adopted a baby boy Kalema, from Ntwire a widower who was passing through their lands, who decided to stay in gratitude to Kintu and Nnakto for raising his son in their family.

When tragedy occurs, Kintu tries to conceal it, Ntwire suspects something and places a curse on Kintu and his family and future descendants.

The novel is structured into Book One to Book Six, the first five books focus on different strands of the Kintu clan, the first book being the original story of Kintu Kidda and his family in the 1750's, the latter stories set in modern times; colonial interlopers have left their imprint, however this is not their story nor a story of their influence, except to note the impact on the kingdom.
After independence, Uganda - a European artefact - was still forming as a country rather than a kingdom in the minds of ordinary Gandas. They were lulled by the fact that Kabuku Mutees II was made president of the new Uganda. Nonetheless, most of them felt that 'Uganda' should remain a kingdom for the Ganda under their kubuka so that things would go back to the way they were before Europeans came. Uganda was a patchwork of fifty or so tribes. The Ganda did not want it. The union of tribes brought no apparent advantage to them apart from a deluge of immigrants from wherever, coming to Kampala to take their land. Meanwhile, the other fifty or so tribes looked on flabbergasted as the British drew borders and told them that they were now Ugandans. Their histories, cultures and identities were overwritten by the mispronounced name of an insufferably haughty tribe propped above them. But to the Ganda, the reality of Uganda as opposed to Buganda only sank in when, after independence, Obote overran the kabaka's lubiri with tanks, exiling Muteesa and banning all kingdoms. The desecration of their kingdom by foreigners paralysed the Ganda for decades.

Each beginning of the six parts/books however narrates a little of the story of a man named Kamu Kintu, who had been removed from his home and was on his way for questioning by the local counsellors, when targeted by a mob of angry villagers and killed. We don't find out who he is or how he is connected to the families we encounter, until Book Six, where the threads that tie the clan together reconnect.

Throughout each family and over the years, certain aspects replicate throughout the families, the presence of twins, premature death, as if the curse that was muttered so long ago continues to reverberate through each generation. Some of them are aware of the curse, they remember the story told by their grandmothers, others haven't been told the truth of their origins, in the hope that ignorance might absolve them.
Her grandmother's story had intruded on her again. All day at work, the story, like an incessant song, had kept coming and going. Now that she was on her way home, Suubi gave in and her grandmother's voice flooded her mind.

Some are haunted by ghosts of the past, thinking themselves not of sound mind, particularly when aspects of their childhood have been hidden from them, some have prophetic dreams, some have had university educations in foreign lands and try to sever their connections to the old ways, though continue to be haunted by omens and symbols, making it difficult to ignore what they feel within themselves, that their mind wishes to reject. Some turn to God and the Awakened, looking for salvation in newly acquired religions.

It's brilliant. We traverse through the lives of these families, witness their growth, development, sadness's and joys, weaving threads of their connections together, that will eventually intersect and come to be understood and embraced by all as the clan is brought together to try and resolve the burden of the long held curse that may have cast its long shadow over this clan for so many generations.
One of the things that’s particularly unique about the novel, is the contrast of the historical era, 1750’s with the modern era, the historical part shows the unique way of life before the arrival of Europeans, in all its richness and detail, how they live, the power structures, the preparation for the long journey to acknowledge a new leader, the protocols they must adhere to, the landscapes they traverse. An article in The Guardian notes twin historical omissions and concludes that the novel is the better for it:

Makumbi mostly avoids describing both the colonial period, which so often seems the obligation of the historical African novel, and Idi Amin’s reign, which seems the obligation of the Ugandan novel. Kintu is better for not retreading this worn ground.

It reminded me of the world recreated by the Guadeloupean-French-African writer, Maryse Condé, in her epic historical novel Segu, another African masterpiece, set in the 1700’s in the kingdom of Segu.

I hope the success of Kintu encourages other young writer’s from within the vast storytelling traditions of the many African countries to continue to tell their stories and that international publishers continue to make them available to the wider reading public, who are indeed interested in these lives, cultures, histories and belief systems of old that continue to resonate in the modern-day, despite political policies and power regimes that seem to want to change them.

Highly Recommended.

nyangumi's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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raspberry102's review against another edition

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challenging funny sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

abookolive's review

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3.0

3.5 stars. Absolutely wonderful opening and brilliant passages throughout, but it didn't end up coming together in a cohesive way.

dcjdevries's review against another edition

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medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25

shonatiger's review against another edition

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5.0

4.5 stars for the story. It has a large cast of characters that's a little difficult to keep track of, and there's a bit of a muddle at the end, but such a great read. Learnt a lot about Uganda, and related to a lot of the traditional things.