Author: Maria Lynch
Type of book: Africa, Portugese Goa, racism, clothing, business, children/young adult novel, 1913-1970s, family, settling down, roots, married life, relationships
Year it was published: 2015
When Sabby Mendes leaves Portuguese Goa aboard the dhow Monsoon Wind bound for British East Africa in 1916, he has one dream-to find work as a tailor in the relatively new capital of Nairobi. Sabby is a young man, still a teenager, but he is determined to build a life for himself, and he knows that the opportunities in the British Protectorate are better than those facing him at home. A bright, affable young man with a genuine passion and talent for tailoring, he is not prepared for what he is about to find beyond the Arabian Sea. The Protectorate, which will become British Colony of Kenya, is a highly segregated society with the British firmly ensconced at its top; below them are the "Asians" like Sabby; and at the very bottom are the native African population who are regarded as little more than savages in need of civilization. Beneath the African Sun offers, through the eyes of its protagonist, a street-level view of the changing social and political climate of Kenya between 1916 and 1970, including the 'Mau Mau' Uprising of the native Kikuyu, the eventual independence of Kenya in 1963, and the political fallout that followed. More than a history, it is a story about family, home, social justice, and what it means to truly belong somewhere.
Besides the names the characters are not well drawn or well done for that matter. There is Sabby for whom everything works out perfectly and who doesn't offer glimpse into his own psychology as well as his wife, children, friends and family. Literally speaking, whatever Sabby decides is the right thing to do and works out with little to no conflict.
Africa is far more complex than originally thought
The story is in first person narrative from Sabby's point of view and is written in a very simple manner as well as language. While some authors are talented in creating complex stories using the simple language, (Pearl Buck for instance,) this is not the case. The book does not delve deeply into the thoughts and actions of characters as I hoped it would do, and some plots or story points went unresolved, for instance where one of Sabby's workers is having some issues, but Sabby never followed up on how those issues were resolved. I couldn't even connect to any of the characters, unfortunately and aside from the pervasive racism, there is very little conflict in Sabby's life. I also would have liked more dialogues between the characters which were literally non-existent.
Meet the AuthorOpinion:
From the summary, I looked forward to reading the book because it promised a unique story and it takes place in Africa. When I started to read the novel, my excitement began plunging, especially when I realized that the writing style would not improve and that the book is all told and no show. From start to finish, the main character, Sabby, sounds almost childlike and seems to gain very little maturity as the years move on. I believe that the book might be perfect for young adult audience to teach them lessons on the complex history of Africa, or perhaps inspire them to see Africa differently, but for those that are seeking a complex tale of racism and how it plays into people's lives, I would mention in taking a pass on this book.
This is for Pump Up Your Book
Tour Schedule1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)