Dance of the Jakaranda
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"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."
"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."
"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."
"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
"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
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.
(2017). Dance of the Jakaranda.
Available at: https://ecommons.aku.edu/books/56