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Dance of the Jakaranda

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Description

"This funny, perceptive and ambitious work of historical fiction by a Kenyan poet and novelist explores his country's colonial past and its legacy through the stories of three men involved with the building of a railroad linking Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean--what the Kikuyu called the 'Iron Snake' and the British called the 'Lunatic Express.'" --New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice "Kimani has done a game job managing the carpentry of this ambitious novel, bringing great skill to the task of deploying multiple story lines, huge leaps back and forth in time and the withholding and distribution of information...Once Kimani has his plotlines all set, his writing relaxes, and it's here that you can see his raw talent...I have never read a novel about [Kenya] that's so funny, so perceptive, so subversive and so sly." --New York Times Book Review "Destined to become one of the greats...This is not hyperbole: it's a masterpiece." --The Gazette "A multi-racial nation-building tale that begins during the construction of the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi. There are three men at its heart: two white, a British administrator known as 'Master' and an Anglican minister; one brown, an Indian technician who sires a male child, a birth that will reverberate down through the years." --Toronto Star "A fascinating part of Kenya's history, real and imagined, is revealed and reclaimed by one of its own." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "But the novel has way more strengths than I can describe here, including the beauty of lyrical narration that combines irony, flashback, humour, allusions and inter-textual references, all of which are expertly manipulated to give the reader a gem of a story populated by composite characters, a story that, though revisiting old themes and times, does so with the freshness that one would expect of established literary geniuses." --Daily Nation "The author has built here not only, on these pages, not only a railroad, but the singular triumph of a highly diverting novel. Besides weaving an excellent plot-line, he offers the reader a classic, understated writing style that haunts much of this book, turns it into a minor masterpiece." --RALPH Magazine, Starred review "Dance of the Jakaranda is colorful and ironic...A fascinating story told in an unforgettable voice." --The Guardian (Trinidad & Tobago) "Peter Kimani, an acclaimed writer and poet, has brilliantly constructed this novel's plot...[His] lyrical prose, such as portraying the train as 'a massive snakelike creature,' and his breathtaking descriptions of 'God's country' bring the beauty of the land before our eyes." --Historical Novels Review "A rich tableau of layers and textures…The book has some brilliant moments of vivid and evocative writing." --Huffington Post Set in the shadow of Kenya's independence from Great Britain, Dance of the Jakaranda reimagines the special circumstances that brought black, brown and white men together to lay the railroad that heralded the birth of the nation. The novel traces the lives and loves of three men--preacher Richard Turnbull, the colonial administrator Ian McDonald, and Indian technician Babu Salim--whose lives intersect when they are implicated in the controversial birth of a child. Years later, when Babu's grandson Rajan--who ekes out a living by singing Babu's epic tales of the railway's construction--accidentally kisses a mysterious stranger in a dark nightclub, the encounter provides the spark to illuminate the three men's shared, murky past. With its riveting multiracial, multicultural cast and diverse literary allusions, Dance of the Jakaranda could well be a story of globalization. Yet the novel is firmly anchored in the African oral storytelling tradition, its language a dreamy, exalted, and earthy mix that creates new thresholds of identity, providing a fresh metaphor for race in contemporary Africa.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 12, 2016 – In his American debut, Kimani illustrates the discordant history of East Indians in Kenya through a fabulously complicated set of intriguing characters and events. One balmy night in 1963, a musician named Rajan is transfixed by the kiss of an ambiguously ethnic woman named Mariam, whose ethnicity seems ambiguous (Rajan himself is East Indian). He takes her home to his grandfather Babu, a meeting that "transcended any explanation other than fate." Babu, it turns out, was a Punjabi laborer who first arrived in Mombasa in 1897 to build the railroad that "slithered down the savanna" under the direction of Mariam's illegitimate English grandfather, commissioner McDonald. After a misunderstanding between the two men blossoms "into a grudge that would last a lifetime," an intricate set of events comes to fruition with Rajan and Mariam's relationship. The joy of Kimani's storytelling is only rarely hampered by the unwieldiness of his plot; he alternates between the colonial past and the "season of anomie" that begins when an edict from the Big Man, who rules the newly independent Kenya and threatens "foreign nationals" (those whose heritage was English or East Indian) such as Rajan with deportation. Rajan's understanding of himself as "a brown man in a black world which had been placed under white rule" fractures as surely as the nation itself does, sent reeling in the face of a "past that had finally caught up with the present to complicate the future." Highlighted by its exquisite voice, Kimani's novel is a standout debut.
Dance of the Jakaranda
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  • $10.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Feb 07, 2017
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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