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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Godfather, 1969, Mario Puzo *****

I know what you might be thinking, this is not African literature. Yes, I know. A couple of months ago my husband and I decided to watch The Godfather saga. I watched it when I was a very young teenager, I couldn't make out most of the story line. My tender age was a deterrent. So I decided to watch it now as an adult. I fell in love with the movie. The actors, settings and whatnot are impeccable.The movie left me wanting for more, so I decided to read the book.
I went to my librarian and narrated my  feelings, and asked if he had the book. He confessed that he had the same experience and had seen the movie many times now. However, I should keep in mind that the novel is not half as good as the movie. He left me dumbfounded because this is the first time I am told that a movie is better than the novel it is based on. He said I should read it anyway, perhaps, that is how I might get to appreciate  and even value more the classic work of art the movie is. He was not mistaken. 

This novel is not as good as the film, nevertheless, it is exciting, thrilling and fast moving. I devoured this 400+ pages in 4 days while on vacation. It helped me understand more the plot of the movie.
So a quick summary for those of you who might not know what the Godfather is all about. It is a story of a "sophisticated" mafia, gangster Italian family based in the USA. A novel where violence, family, crime, love, extortion, religion, murder, respect and loyalty go hand in hand.

There are some remarkable differences between the novel and book, for instance; Sonny's lover played a more significant role in the book (not in the movie), there is more about Johnny Fontane and his life in the Hollywood showbiz. Michael and Kay's children were two boys not a boy and a girl as in the movie. Even Michael's mother, Mrs. Corleone had more role in the novel. However, the movie is a whole lot extensive than the novel where Michael Corleone is the main character.

Furthermore, Mario Puzo's narrative is nothing close to poetic nor lyrical, nevertheless, his storyline is surpassingly good. The combination of family values, religion and murder is thrilling. So said, I really enjoyed reading this novel. I am going to re-watched the saga and most probably write my review on it. Highly recommended.

Have you watched or read the Godfather?

Monday, 10 August 2015

Our prewedding

Hello readers,
you might want to check out our save-the-date pictures and video. Please click here.

Kind regards.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Measuring Time, 2008, Helon Habila ****

After reading "Waiting for an Angel" I fell in love with Helon Habila and decided to read more of his works. He is such a splendid writer. A very good one for that matter.
"Measuring Time" is the story of a twin brother, born in a weird family circumstances. Their mother died during labour and their father couldn't care less.
We follow them as they grow up, one is constantly sick and considered the intelligent one while the other, the healthy one is not as intelligent as his brother. They are Mamo and LaMamo respectively. Their concerns about life grow as they become older, it even become more intense when a family member taken for dead, returns from the Biafra war and commits suicide in their family home.
They decide to leave the country and only LaMamo, the healthy one, succeeds. That is how they are separated and started life apart. LaMamo joins a militia, fighting in Libya and then ends up in Liberia. While, Mamo due to his delicate health stays behind and tries to make a decent living and fight injustice through writing. This novel sort of narrates on their lives apart, a comparison perhaps?

"Measuring Time" is a very well written novel, though I did not enjoy it as much as "Waiting for an Angel". In my opinion,  there is a lot going on and each of them could have perfectly become an independent story worthy of a novel. Let me also add that Helon did a wonderful job weaving them together. I HIGHLY recommend. Believe it or not Helon Habila is such an extraordinary novelist. I look forward to reading more of his novels.

Have you read this novel or any of Helon Habila's novel? What is your opinion?

Monday, 27 July 2015

New Book Release on August 13th 2015


Leila Aboulela has written another book, expected to be published on the 13th of August 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 

From Goodreads

"Natasha is researching the life of Imam Shamil, a nineteenth-century warrior who battled to defend the Caucasus against Russian invasion. She uncovers a story of bravery and loss, and of captives traded between wild mountain hideouts and the refined court of the Tsar. The tale of Shamil and his lost son comes shockingly to life when Natasha realises that her star student, Oz, is descended from the warrior. Quickly, she becomes drawn to him, and to the alluring world of his family. But Natasha soon realises she is not the only one with an interest in Oz, and in what he might be hiding. As suspicion around him intensifies, Natasha realises everything she values stands in jeopardy".

I have read two of Leila's novel, two of which I really enjoyed.

  1. Minaret
  2. Lyrics Alley
Leila Aboulela is Sudanese, an A-list writer. Orange Prize nominee more than once, IMPAC Dublin Award nominee, Caine Prize winner, Scottish Book Award winner, Commonwealth Writer's Prize nominee, I hope she also delivers on her new novel "The Kindness of Enemies".

Do you look forward to reading her latest novel?


Friday, 24 July 2015

2015 Spring Read Progress (SpRP)







  1. My Friend Matt and Hena The Whore, 1988, Adam Zameenzad
  2. The Clothes of Nakedness, 1998, Benjamin Kwakye
  3. Waiting for an Angel, 2003, Helon Habila
  4. Admiring Silence, 1996, Abdulrazak Gurnah
  5. Fiela's Child, 1985, Dalene Matthee

Let me also add that I read Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah up to page 75 and gave up. Have any of you read this novel? If so, please share your thoughts.


14 books so far, for 2015. Not so bad! What about you? How is your reading going so far this year? I hope it is better than mine.

Happy reads!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

2015 Spring Read Progress (SpRP) coming soon...

Ladies and gentlemen, I apologise for the long silence. I was on holidays, touring the south-east of Italy, from where, we sailed to Zakynthos, Greece. It was such an amazing experience. My husband and I are so excited and very well rested. While travelling, I finished reading "Measuring Time" by Helon Habila and read "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo, of which I will write about later. At the moment, I just started reading "Sundowners" by Lesley Lokko.

For a kick off, let me share a picture of our trip with you.

Look forward to hearing from me again.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Fiela's Child, 1985, Dalene Matthee ****

A 3 year old white boy Lukas Van Rooyen got lost in the forest. He was  not found. Almost a decade later during census many kilometres away on the other side of the forest a white child named Benjamin Komoeties was found in the family of coloureds (in South Africa refers to people of mixed ethnic parentage). Was he the missing Lucas? Though, the white officials who carried out the census only cared about was why must a white child live with a black family? They took Benjamin away and was determined to never bring him back. Is Benjamin Komoties really the missing Lucas Van Rooyen?
As the story unfolds we get to see the impact all these changes had on Benjamin's life and his identity. What happens when you rip out a child from one family to another? Why didn't the authority think about this before they took him away? They simply thought that Fiela Komoeties couldn't be his mother because she was black and he, white, when she has raised him up as her own and loved him with all her might. They do not care. They'd rather leave him with a dysfunctional white family.

As I later found out, this novel is based on a true story though it was written in form of a fictional biography. A very moral and thought-provoking story. An intense read. I was so eager to know if Benjamin was really Lucas, and how could a 3 year old boy walk that distance and safely finds himself at the other side of the forest. Who is Benjamin Komoeties? What really happened to Lucas Van Rooyen?

This story was set in the 1800 in  rural South Africa and I also read somewhere that it is in motion pictures too. I'd like to see it.

It goes without saying, that I really enjoyed this novel. Even though, it was set in South Africa it was during pre-apartheid, all the same you can still feel the white dominance and the way they look down upon the black people who call them "master". I highly recommend.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Half of a Yellow Sun the Movie ***

I am glad I finally watched Half of a Yellow Sun the movie. Let's keep in mind that movies are different form of art that cannot totally capture the real essence of a novel. With that said, the film was good although I did not enjoy it as much as I did the novel. To start with, Thandie Newton was amazing in her role as Olanna, she was quite impressive. Nevertheless, if I should give an Oscar to an actor in the movie, it would be to John Boyega, his performance as Ugwu was splendid. In my opinion, though it's been a while since I read the novel, I think he gave more substance to "Ugwu" than in the book.
Secondly, I did not like  Anika Noni Rose as Kainene, she was not convincing. Neither was Genevieve Nnaji the one who played Lara Adebayo. In my opinion Genevieve Nnaji should have played Kainene and they should have found someone else to do Lara Adebayo.

Furthermore, the actors' accent betrayed their origin. As an Igbo person, though I have lived more years out of my country, I could tell outright that Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose weren't t Igbo from the way they spoke the language. Perhaps, they thought it is a minor case since it is a problem only an Igbo person would detect, anyway. However,  in my opinion, they should have practised more.

To end on a positive note, I like the combination of fiction and history. For instance, there were real images of Ojukwu leader of the Republic of Biafra and real images of Nigeria at that time. Finally, I would not have seen the movie if it was not for the novel so my advice to you is do not swap the movie for the book. You will be highly disappointed. Watch the movie if you are simply curious like me because the film doesn't live up to the book.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Mary Okeke Reviews is Three Today

I cannot believe it, today three years this blog was created, Mary Okeke Reviews. Over 100 books read and reviewed, over 165 published posts, over 136 thousand page views. The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola published in 1952 and The Concubine by Elechi Amadi published in 1966 being the most viewed. With 50% of my audience from the United States of America, the rest of my top audiences are from Spain, Nigeria, UK, France, Germany, Russia, India, Ghana and Ukraine. I am baffled.
I am more than grateful and all I can say is thank you for your support. I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you by my side! With this, I'd like to share 30 books that I highly enjoyed and recommend in no order of preference.

 
 
 













  











 Admiring Silence

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Admiring Silence, 1996, Abdulrazak Gurnah *****

Admiring Silence was exclusively written in the first person narrative, which makes it an intense read. We never get to know the name of the narrator. Who, is smuggled out of his homeland Zanzibar with a one way ticket to England. No coming back due to the post colonial political instability of his country. An emotional hard blow, if we take into account his family background and their deep-rooted tradition with rigid hierarchy. Then, he arrives at England, lonely and cold. Luckily, falls in love with Emma, an English woman. Basking in the warmth and love she provides him with, shakes the foundations of his belief. 

The novel is divided into three parts; in the first part he mainly narrates on how he met Emma and what he told her about himself. Which aren't entirely the truth though you won't know until you start reading the second part of the novel. That is, 20 years later when he is finally able to visit "home". New characters start popping up. I had to reread, stop for a while in order to be able to take it all in. He has been lying to Emma all these years, he couldn't bring himself to tell her the whole truth. Neither did he tell his people about his relationship with her and their 17 year old daughter together. That is an interesting plot on behalf of the author.

His African family wanted him to remain with them, marry a local woman, be one of them again. Will that be possible after living 20 years as an expatriate in England? Is he really still one of them? Where does he call home now?*

I would have liked to love the narrator, however he seems to always be afraid of everything even when apparently there was nothing to be afraid of. He is not the type that lives life by holding the bull by the horns. He tiptoes around instead of walking with confident. He thinks a lot and reluctantly or never carries out his actions. I Know, his past was difficult. His family background is not one to be highly proud of. But again, you cannot control other people's actions neither can you blame yourself for their decisions.

It goes without saying that to read Admiring Silence is an amazing experience. Abdulrazak Gurnah is now one of my favourite writers. He is a great novelist. An amazing writer and storyteller.  I highly recommend. I have ordered another of his novel "Paradise".

*I totally understand the topic Abdulrazak Gurnah is expounding on here, I had similar experience. After a trip with my now husband who is Catalan (Spanish) I logged on social media and wrote "Home Sweet Home". Most of my friends on social media many of them Nigerians, first, second, third cousins even those I am not sure the family link between us though I have known them since I was a child, everyone started commenting: "at last you are back", "welcome home", "how is Ogidi"? (village where I grew up)" Are you in the village"? "I am in town I will stop by". I had to reply them to tell them that my "Home Sweet Home" is the sunny apartment I share with my now husband in Barcelona. After spending nights in hotel rooms out of the country, it just feels good to be home again with him. Just us alone. I cannot bring myself to call somewhere else home other than where I live now with him.

As an expatriate we go through a metamorphosis associated with our different circumstances that makes us start  experiencing the world differently. It makes one become an entirely different person that those left behind sometimes will never get to understand. Life goes on, anyway.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Waiting for an Angel, 2003, Helon Habila *****

This novel started with Lomba in prison, a political detainee in total loss of hope. Upon that, his prison superintendent punishes him for clandestinely writing poetry. How dare he! In the process of his punishment, he discovers that he is, actually, a good love writer. Why not take advantage of his writing skills? After all, he is only a prisoner and has no choice. At that moment, Lomba has been in prison for two years still awaiting trial.
Two years before: Lomba a brilliant and creative student looks forward to being a novelist. In one of his University outings he visits a fortune-teller with his friends and he is particularly told that prison is all that is seen ahead of him. He shrugs it off. Later on, his room mate Bola (brother-like), loses all of his family member in a fatal car accident, so stressed out that he ran mad. Simultaneously, riots along with military brutality are in high gear in their university. And then  the strike. Lomba drops out. As a result loses contact with the girl he dearly loves.
I also promised to meet you the next day when I left you in the morning, a happy smile on your face. I had a happy smile too. we were not to meet again for over three years- because my friend went mad, because of the riots, because I dropped out of school because of many things. what was a mere promise in the face of all these cataclysms?
Yes they met three years later but in different circumstances. As a university dropout, life becomes miserable, no jobs, his country Nigeria is under a military dictatorship. James Fiki a magazine editor hires him as a reporter and makes it clear that there is no future for novelists in their country. None of his novel would ever get published, even if it was, no body would buy it in the country since the majority of the population are starving and it would not make it out of their borders since they are being sanctioned by the international community due to the state of their government. Lomba had to conform as a  magazine reporter ( at least he is writing at all) which finally led to his illegal detention, anyway.

Waiting for an Angel is an outstanding and striking novel, its narrative is in form of interlinked short stories. Which could as well stand independently. Helon Habila actually won the Caine Prize in 2001 with one of them. I find it creative as it is written in the first person narrative through different voices with an author who is omniscient. This novel is nothing short of meritorious. Highly recommended. Lastly, I have this inkling that the writer is mostly referring to his own experience in this novel. All the same, I look forward to reading more of his works.

One of my favourite quotes from this novel among others, in this case when referring to the prison superintendent:
He was just Man. Man in his basic, rudimentary state, easily moved by powerful emotions like love, lust, anger, greed and fear, but totally dumb to the finer, acquired emotions like pity, mercy, humour and justice.

Let me also add, that this novel is the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best First Book, in Africa. Another addition to my challenge.
                  

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Clothes of Nakedness, 1998, Benjamin Kwakye **

This novel came up on my radar as part of my reading challenge since it won the literary award Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in Africa 1999. Apart from that, I had previously fell in love with an interview the writer gave to one of my fellow blogger, which encouraged me to want to read his works, which as well moved me to get in touch with him. His books were in my TBR list for a longtime before I at last purchased one "The Clothes of Nakedness", I am glad I did not buy all of them. I can be an impulsive book buyer sometimes!

Mystique Mysterious, a stranger finds a job for Bukhari on the condition that he would  receive fifteen to twenty percent of his monthly salary. Bukhari, finding out last minute did not object. Not only that, this stranger also persuaded him to be unfaithful to his wife, persuaded him to stay out late and drink, persuaded him to squander his money and pay little or no attention to his wife and son. I wonder why Bukhari should give in to such persuasiveness. It goes with out saying that it is the beginning of his downfall. Though, the whole incident is so surreal to me.

In my opinion, this novel leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps, it's just me. I read a lot and have suddenly started expecting more from writers. Which does not mean that I need a novel to be read along with a dictionary. I simply take two things into consideration; storyline and narrative. It might seem simple, however, it is not a task many writers seem to accomplish. How strong is your storyline and how well can you put it into writing engagingly? I think that is what make up an interesting read and as a matter of fact, also make a distinguished writer.

Back to my review of The Clothes of Nakedness, the book was well written, however the storyline was flimsy. The writer created characters that accepted without question whatever that is thrown onto them however implausible it may seem. I know it is fiction, nevertheless, I believe there should be a certain amount of realism in the story being told.

The Rape Of Sita, 1993, Lindsey Collen ****

Evidently, this novel narrates on the "Rape of Sita"; however it is not just the "Rape of Sita" per se. It is also, essentially, about the oppression of the Mauritians during the British colonization.
A story about the struggle of generations of Mauritians to regain their freedom and peace of mind from the scourge of colonization. Sita was one woman determined to be part of that history. Although, she was raped by a family friend under weird circumstances. The story is mainly based on how she moved along without doubting her own integrity. How she survived such terrible experience in a society where everyone else is mentally raped.
"The Rape of Sita"  was told through the voice of a male character, who knows Sita so well; I assume, since he narrated on the incident in detail. Though, he was not involved in committing the offense. Additionally, he tends to address the reader directly, which could be a pet hate.
"Here is the first dilemma, dear reader. Should she have gone to the Seychelles at all? Can a person know what will happen as a result of this decision to go to a conference?"
I guess readers should have the liberty to reach their own conclusion without being constantly asked to take a minute to reflect on a particular issue. Again, I am sure the writer purposely wanted to narrate her story that way. Apart from that, it is a novel poetically and beautifully written, no gory details of the horrific event. I recommend.
I came across it because it is part of my Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa Region Winners Reading Challenge. It won the 1994 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best Book, Africa. And I must say that it deserves the Prize. First novel ever read set in Mauritius.
Linsey Collen, born in South Africa is known as a Mauritian novelist whose works have twice won the Commonwealth Writers Prize as Best Book Africa.

Furthermore, another novel I have read that primarily narrates on rape is Lucky by Alice Sebold, a non-fiction. Quite a troubling read, indeed. However, rape in "The Rape of Sita" was approached in a totally different way.
Finally, I'd recommend you read A Rant on Misrepresentation of Rape in Literature by Amy on Amy Reads, one blogger, whose posts I follow often. Though, I must say that "The Rape of Sita" do not belong to any of the three categories mentioned in the post.

Please, let me know your thoughts if you've read this novel.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

My Friend Matt and Hena The Whore, 1988, Adam Zameenzad ****

One peculiar fiction written through the voice and eyes of a ten year old. Peculiar, because the young lad narrates on such a devastating war in his country and still makes you laugh.
My Friend Matt and Hena the Whore is set in a fictitious country in Africa. Matt, Golam, Hena and Kimo the narrator are childhood friends, all under the age of ten. Funny, witty, inventive and resourceful, always on the watch to lend a hand. When civil war erupted, they volunteered to leave their village in order to provide for their families and villagers. They never knew it was the beginning of their misfortune.  Now,  this is not like Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan that was so uncomfortable to read due to the constant blatant "poverty porn" as one of my friends (whom I agree with) puts it. Kimo, the narrator is extremely honest in his narrative, his childhood manners always present in the way he talks. The author did a wonderful job.

In the quote below, Kimo still did not understand that Pasadena, California, USA is a place that exists on earth and not a type of hell. Throughout the novel he was very adamant about not wanting himself nor his loved ones to go there after death.
I wonder if he is right that the Spirit of Grandma will be lost in "eternal darkness", or go to "Hell", or worst of all, to Pasadena, California, USA. That's where the missionary bloke had run out from, and where he said was "rife with carnal sin and mortal evil".
In a different situation an adult was trying to make sense with a pointless debate. Talk about the pot calling kettle black.
He says Jak oughtn't to mind much as it isn't his money anyway. it is part of the money which some countries send to our country to help our people, but which never gets to our people. It is used by people like Jak and the Government for buying guns and bullets and bombs and fighter planes to keep the people down. Instead of feeding them, as it is meant to do. So the people have  a right to it. We ask him what they'll be doing with the money. He says they'll be buying guns and bullets and bombs and fighter planes to fight the Government. 
Adam Zameenzad, the author is herein addressing the consequences of ruthless and senseless war through the eyes and voice of a child and still makes you laugh. Children who refuse to loose their innocence even when the war in their country was at full blast with the shootings, bombings, famine, abuse and death of their loved ones. In the dedication Adam writes:
In the hope that at some stage in the life of this planet no man or woman will have to experience the shame of writing another book like this one again.

I highly recommend.

My copy of this novel was published by Fourth Estate Limited in Great Britain. 218 pages.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, 2001, Alexandra Fuller *****

This book was about to be discarded before I rescued it from the rubbish bin. I kept it on my shelf for years, gathering dust, not sure if to read or not to read. That was the question. I finally read it and regretted why I did not do so for so long.
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is too real to be true, a larger than life non-fiction that narrates on the childhood and growing up of Alexandra Fuller in the southern part of Africa. Her parents participated in the Rhodesian war, a fail attempt to establish the white supremacy. Having lost the war, they moved to Malawi and then to Zambia where they finally "settled". Her parents were reckless and racists who wallow in their ignorance. I am not surprised that her mother at some point ended up with a nervous breakdown, stark raving mad.

Nevertheless, this is a memoir that I highly enjoyed, Alexandra Fuller was blunt and true to her self and her readers in narrating her memoir. I might not like some of the stories narrated therein, but it is her story not mine. It was an amazing read, extraordinary and striking. I had this desire to read on and non stop. It kept me on the edge of my seat. Incredibly moving. I highly recommend, 5 star read. I would also strongly recommend Zenzele: A Letter For My Daughter right after reading this non-fiction. Both were set in Zimbabwe.

Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award 2002, won Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and the Book Sense Book of the Year  for Adult non-fiction 2003  (previously known as American Booksellers Book Of The Year Award and now know as Indies Choice Book Award), A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini also won Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction (2008). 

My copy of this book was published by Random House Paperbacks New York, 315 pages.
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