A Grain of Wheat, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Originally published in 1967, Ngugi's third novel is his best known and most ambitious work. "A Grain of Wheat" portrays several characters in a village whose intertwined lives are transformed by the 1952-1960 Emergency in Kenya.

As the action follows the village's arrangements for Uhuru (independence) Day.

This is a novel of stories within stories, a narrative interwoven with myth as well as allusions to real-life leaders of the nationalist struggle, including Jomo Kenyatta.

At the centre of it all is the reticent Mugo, the village's chosen hero and a man haunted by a terrible secret.

As events unfold, compromises are forced, friendships are betrayed and loves are tested.




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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This stunning and searing novel, which was written by Mr Thiong'o in 1967, is set in a village in Kenya just prior to the country's independence from Britain in 1963. However, much of the story takes place during the Emergency (referred to by the British as the Mau Mau Uprising) that took place from 1952-1960, which led to the deaths of a few dozen settlers and tens of thousands of Kenyans, and caused the destruction of numerous villages and the breakdown of Kenyan social and economic society. The main characters in this story were all caught up in the retribution that took place after a freedom fighter from the village kills a particularly violent District Officer, and each of them betrays someone dear to them or to the movement, with devastating results. I was unaware of how horrible the Emergency was, but Mr Thiong'o gives us an unforgettable view of colonial Kenya.

Review by

Novel set at the moment of Kenyan independence from the British, where the victorious Kenyans are not united but divided by their experience of colonial rule and the fight to be free. Tries to provide a panoramic view through the eyes of several characters, but Thiong'o clearly cares about some more than others, so it's all a bit uneven. The good bits are good though, and one of the characters (Mugo) is put in a desperate situation it would have been intriguing to read more about (if the whole book had been about him, I'd have been happy). The book lacked a bit of humour and vibrancy, but he has a good eye for the complexities present even at the liberation movement's moment of triumph. A book I liked more sitting and thinking about it afterward rather than in the process of reading.

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