Another book I wanted to add to this blog is Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu. I’m not sure whether I could bring myself to call it my favourite book because that’s a pretty big claim but it’s definitely one of my all-time top reads.
Another debut novel, another Guardian First Book Award winner writing about the trials and tribulations of people who come from far-off lands. So what’s so special about this book that makes it better than Elegy for Easterly? Perhaps my reasons for loving it so are entirely personal. You see, I started reading Children of the Revolution at a time when I hated my job, I hated the house I was living in and I was utterly miserable. Our ceiling was set to collapse and we had no running water for weeks. (Trying to wash yourself by splashing around in an inch of bottled water in the bath might look amusing- but it’s certainly no fun when you’re the one in the bath.)
Anyway, this book kept me company during a very trying time, even though it’s not the cheeriest book I’ve ever read. Indeed, there’s something rather desolate about the way the main character, Sepha, goes about his lonely life, barely even managing to keep his crumbling shop from ruin. But there’s something hopeful in the book too. When Sepha meets Judith, the white woman next door, it seems like things might really be about to change for him. You can see how her daughter Naomi’s presence is starting to illuminate his life – you can see him starting to work towards an understanding of all the things he’s missing. Although he continues to joke with Kenneth and Joseph about Africa’s long line of revolutions and about how things never really change, you can see Sepha starting to want good things for himself – and for Judith and Naomi. Anyway, I won’t spoil the book by blabbering on too much about the plot- suffice to say that there’s some heartache to come for Sepha, and I can’t imagine that you won’t be moved by it.
The best thing about Mengestu is that he paints such a vivid picture with his words. I moved out of the house with the leaky ceiling almost two years ago now and I can still picture Sepha shuffling around his shop with its faded produce and tatty décor. I can still remember his triumphs and I can still recall his anguish. I still harass everyone I know about reading the book too. Of course, now I’ve gone through all of my friends and relatives and I have to content myself with harassing strangers about it. So there you go: Buy this book! You know you want to…