Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Forbidden Fruit by @stangazemba #Africa Life @TheMantle

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

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FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Stanley Gazemba

4 out of 5 stars

Forbidden Fruit is a novel about life in a Kenyan village, about the vagaries of human nature, but I felt it was more an illustration of the life and times of the people; the plot comes second.  The ‘forbidden fruit’ of the title refers not only to an illicit affair, but other aspects of the story.

The main character is impoverished villager Ombima, who, at the beginning of the novel, is stealing food from the farms owned by his employers, simply because his family do not have enough.  I found the differences between the poor and the wealthy starkly delineated; this interested me and was very well done.  The descriptions of the rural life were quite an education, and even though, by Western standards, the lives of the villagers is harsh, I felt that they were no badly off than we are.  Certainly there was much joy to be found.

I found the dialogue a little strange at times; I don’t know if it was translated from another language or if the author’s first language is not English; there is no author profile on Amazon for me to see.  But it was a mixture of Americanisms and some curious choices of words; I don’t know how Kenyans talk so I can’t say whether or not it is authentic.

If you are interested in every day life in rural Africa I am sure you will love this book; every aspect of life is explored in great detail.

Book Description

Fiction. African and African American Studies. Winner of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a “harmless” crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima’s family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba’s FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups–sometimes sad, sometimes farcical–are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli

About the author

Stanley Gazemba

Stanley Gazemba is an award-winning author and his breakthrough novel, ‘The Stone Hills of Maragoli’, published by Kwani? won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Kenyan Literature in 2003. He is also the author of two other novels: ‘Callused Hands’ and ‘Khama’, he has written eight children’s books. A prolific writer, Stanley’s articles and stories have appeared in several international publications including the New York Times, ‘A’ is for Ancestors, the Caine Prize Anthology and the East African magazine. Stanley lives in Nairobi and his short story ‘Talking Money’ was recently published in ‘Africa 39’, a Hay Festival publication which was released in 2014. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, ‘Africa 39’ features a collection of 39 short stories by some of Africa’s leading contemporary authors. Stanley is also in the process of working on an array of creative literary projects.

 

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My #BookReview of Forbidden Fruit by @stangazemba A descriptive flavour of #Africa

Forbidden FruitForbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forbidden Fruit is a story written about peasant farmers and their families who live in a small village in western Kenya.

Ombima and his family live in a thatched hut in a compound where they grow a few crops and vegetables. To supplement their income they also work for Andimi, a rich tea farmer and businessman.

It is Andimi’s luscious garden which tempts Ombimi into stealing one evening, against his better nature. Alas, his actions lead him down a slippery path.

This book is filled with vivid descriptions of everyday life for the villagers, from daily chores, to medical emergencies, a funeral wake and the Christmas celebrations. The dialogue is challenging for western reading ears, with its mix of local words and mannerisms, but readers will get used to it as they continue with the book.

Certainly one to read if you are interested in everyday African life; the plot unravels slowly, and is not the star of the show, but if you’re after a descriptive flavour of Africa, then give this a try.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book Description

Fiction. African and African American Studies. Winner of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a “harmless” crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima’s family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba’s FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups–sometimes sad, sometimes farcical–are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli.

About the author

Stanley Gazemba

Stanley Gazemba is an award-winning author and his breakthrough novel, ‘The Stone Hills of Maragoli’, published by Kwani? won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Kenyan Literature in 2003. He is also the author of two other novels: ‘Callused Hands’ and ‘Khama’, he has written eight children’s books. A prolific writer, Stanley’s articles and stories have appeared in several international publications including the New York Times, ‘A’ is for Ancestors, the Caine Prize Anthology and the East African magazine. Stanley lives in Nairobi and his short story ‘Talking Money’ was recently published in ‘Africa 39’, a Hay Festival publication which was released in 2014. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, ‘Africa 39’ features a collection of 39 short stories by some of Africa’s leading contemporary authors. Stanley is also in the process of working on an array of creative literary projects.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Forbidden Fruit by @stangazemba #AfricanLiterature @TheMantle

Today’s Team Review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

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Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba is a story about the frailties of human nature. Set in Western Kenya, it offers the reader a glimpse of what life is like for peasant villagers struggling to make ends meet against a harsh and unforgiving landscape.

From the onset it is clear that Gazemba has a gift for descriptive writing as he brings to life the back breaking existence of being a farm labourer. The peasant farmers live in compounds in basic huts. Their lives are shaped by poverty although the customs and traditions that they live by afford them some enjoyment. For example at Christmas they form a choir and the children decorate the outside of the huts by daubing them with white clay mixed with the juice of pumpkin leaves. In contrast the landowner enjoys the luxury of living in a big, splendid house with servants to wait on him.

Life for the peasants is framed around a patriarchal society. The women have to work alongside the men in the fields but also have to take care of children and tend to the housekeeping. Cleaning and cooking is the domain of women who risk a beating should they be late home to attend to their chores. Custom also demands that women are covered and wear head scarves. Only the daughters of the landowner fare better as they are educated abroad and have careers.

Although there is a low key sense of tension running through the novel it moves at a gentle pace perhaps in keeping with the rhythm of life in an African village. The most striking element of the story is the way Gazemba develops his characters and shows them to be deeply flawed. The male characters are the ones who drive the story forward towards a disastrous finale whilst the women are forced to suffer the consequences.

The main character is Ombima, a poor middle-aged farm worker who prides himself on his honesty but then goes on to steal from the landowner’s garden. It is this act that sets in motion a dangerous chain of events. Although it’s easy to forgive Ombima’s theft, given that his family is practically starving, the fact that he’s willing to point the finger of blame at other equally vulnerable characters makes him less sympathetic to the reader. Deep down he resents his poverty and is bitter that he missed out on an education as when his father became disabled he had to become his family’s wage earner.

His friendship with Ang’ote is complex as superficially they are close but beneath the surface resentment and jealousy threatens to consume them and indeed leads to a terrible act of treachery. Ang’ote gives the appearance of being a generous, unkempt, free spirit but there is a darkness lurking within whilst Ombima likes to feel superior to his friend’s chaotic lifestyle. Through the two men’s relationship, Gazemba explores the idea that poverty, rather than bringing people together, drives us to exploit our differences in order to feel superior to someone else. History has taught us the truth of this as society creates a hierarchy and no one wants to feel like they are at the bottom.

It is the female characters who are the heart of the story. Ombima’s wife, Sayo, is gentle and uncomplaining; making the best of what life offers her no matter how unfair that may be. Rebecca is an older woman who has been left to care for numerous grandchildren as their mothers have fled to the cities in the hope of a better life. She is a beautiful woman who has been ravaged by the sun, hard work and the harshness of a life of poverty. She is though very wise and morally sound, she cautions Ang’ote to “learn in life to accept yourself for what you are.”

The most complex female character is Madam Tabitha, the wife of the rich landowner. She is trapped in a loveless marriage and her dissatisfaction and need to feel wanted cause her to behave in a way that has disastrous consequences. She is clearly an intelligent woman, working as a school mistress, and she shows compassion to the villagers also urging her husband, Andimi, to do likewise. She looks back on the way she had her head turned by Andimi with a bitter sense of regret. At the same time, however, she enjoys the luxury of having nice things and living in splendour.

What I found particularly interesting about Forbidden Fruit is the way Gazemba depicts the complexity of communities. It’s easy to idealise the idea of everyone pulling together and supporting each other and to a large extent this is shown to take place, especially in times of loss. However, the compounds are also riddled with petty jealousies and divisions. For example, Ngayira is a witch who people are happy to take their sick to for help but then they turn on her when things go wrong, blaming her for cursing their livestock etc.

Gazemba uses his novel to show the good and bad sides of human nature. We are all flawed and this is starkly apparent in a small community. I really enjoyed Forbidden Fruit as it’s gentle and thoughtful. If you’re interested in reading about other cultures and the universal themes that connect us all then this is one for you.

Book Description

Fiction. African and African American Studies. Winner of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a “harmless” crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima’s family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba’s FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups–sometimes sad, sometimes farcical–are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli

About the author

Stanley Gazemba

Stanley Gazemba is an award-winning author and his breakthrough novel, ‘The Stone Hills of Maragoli’, published by Kwani? won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Kenyan Literature in 2003. He is also the author of two other novels: ‘Callused Hands’ and ‘Khama’, he has written eight children’s books. A prolific writer, Stanley’s articles and stories have appeared in several international publications including the New York Times, ‘A’ is for Ancestors, the Caine Prize Anthology and the East African magazine. Stanley lives in Nairobi and his short story ‘Talking Money’ was recently published in ‘Africa 39’, a Hay Festival publication which was released in 2014. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, ‘Africa 39’ features a collection of 39 short stories by some of Africa’s leading contemporary authors. Stanley is also in the process of working on an array of creative literary projects.

 

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter