A powerful memoir of an extraordinary Kenyan childhood by an international literary giant
In Dreams in a Time of War, Ngugi wa Thiong’o paints a mesmerising portrait of a young boy’s experiences in an African nation in flux.
Beginning in the late 1930s, this moving and entertaining memoir describes Ngugi’s day-to-day life as the fifth child of his father’s third wife in a family that included twenty-four children born to four different mothers. Against the backdrop of World War II, which affected the lives of Africans under British colonial rule in unexpected ways, Ngugi spent his childhood as the apple of his mother’s eye before attending school to slake what was then considered a bizarre thirst for learning.
As he grows up, the wider political and social changes occurring in Kenya at this time begin to impinge on the boy’s life in both inspiring and frightening ways. Through telling the story of his grandparents and parents and of his brothers’ involvement on different sides of the violent Mau Mau uprising, Ngugi wa Thiong’o takes us back to a momentous period in Kenyan history, deftly etching a bygone era, capturing the landscape, the people and their culture, and the social and political vicissitudes of life under colonialism and war.
“In his crowded career and his eventful life, Ngugi has enacted, for all to see, the paradigmatic trials and quandaries of a contemporary African writer caught in sometimes implacable political, social, racial, and linguistic currents”
John Updike, The New Yorker
“Delicate, fresh and scrupulously honest...calm and mature”
“Moving, honest and informative, this is a book about the influence of stories, storytelling and storytellers. It is a reminder that every generation, however beleaguered, can dream to change the world”
“The work he offers us here is like nothing that's gone before: it is the chronicle of a child's single-minded pursuit of an education.... The picture of Kenya that he presents is admirably free of cant or sentimentality, and yet it is enough to make you weep”
“Ngugi has returned to his roots to produce something delicate, fresh and scrupulously honest”
Michela Wrong, The Spectator
“The surprise about Dreams in a Time of War is that, for all the provocation of history, and for all its clear-eyed evocation of an agonised time, it is not an angry book ... Ngugi's storyteller's instinct for character and place, for recurring motifs and telling symbols, triumphs over the bleakness of background...this memoir is a tale of triumph”
Mary Crockett, The Scotsman
“Essential reading for the author's many admirers”
Michael Holman, Literary Review
“Ngugi's storytelling skills never falter as he brings this far-away world vividly to life”
“Absorbing personal reflections that illuminate not just later careers, but the state of their peoples too.”
Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Christmas round up
“One of Kenya's greatest storytellers”
James Urquhart, Financial Times