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Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi | July Reads


A multi-generational family saga which begins in 1750 when Kintu Kidda, a clan elder and leader of the Kintu clan in the Buganda kingdom, unleashes upon himself and his descendants a terrible curse. I would describe Kintu as a compelling yet extremely complex novel. My only criticism is that I found the ending too abrupt.

Throughout the novel we follow some of his descendants and how "the curse" has affected them. I found the way she uses said curse to explore different issues - from mental health problems to the HIV outbreak, but also parental abandonment and religion among others - and how it is the perfect excuse to justify certain problems the characters are facing absolutely fascinating. Most of the descendants are aware of the curse as well so it is interesting to read about how each of them deals with the different problems in their lives. I didn't find all storylines equally engaging and I wish some character's stories were longer than others but all in all, I enjoyed the narrative throughout.

As I said at the beginning, Kintu is a very complex novel. It does have a family tree at the beginning as well as a breakdown of every character for each part of the book which is extremely helpful since some characters have similar names. However, the complexity doesn't lie only in its characters, but in Makumbi's writing. It is rich and evocative and hard to follow at times. Don't go in expecting an easy read where everything is "given" to the reader; you need to give it your full attention. Another thing to keep in mind is that Kintu is not written for a Western audience; it is not trying to accommodate itself to Western readers, which brings its own challenges. Personally, I spent some time looking up information regarding the history of Uganda and words Makumbi uses which are not translated but it also made the reading experience a lot richer.

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