A group blog for participants in the New York Times Notable Book Challenge to share their thoughts on the books they are reading.
I really liked the book, but here's my main problem with it.The houseboy was forced to murder, rob and rape people when he was conscripted to the army, but when he finally returned to Olanna's home, he seemed unchanged to me. I would have liked to see how the war changed him. He only seemed a little sadder and a little more cautious, which to me didn't ring true. Any one else have thoughts on that?Or anything else that you didn't like about the book?
I agree, Kookie - this was a fault in characterization, I think. He was such a sensitive and caring boy, and I would think that this experience (especially after he learns his sister also was raped) would have greatly changed his character. The book ends fairly quickly after he is reunited with the rest of the characters, so perhaps we just don't get to see the changes in him.
Perhaps she could do a sequel, and catch up with the characters 5 years later. I would like to see if Ugwu ever has a family of his own and how the war affects his family.
I liked this book, too, and I didn't even think about Ugwu being so unchanged at the time that I read the story. But then I read Beasts of No Nation right after that, and i can see that he would have been very changed after the experiences of the war. Especially since he was mainly an intellectual type -- the things he would have seen would have been very shocking to him.
Kookiejar -I see what you're saying. As Wendy mentioned, at this point the story was "wrapping up", and we were not given the opportunity to see what happens next. Also, for some people, the trauma and violence of war catches up with them long after the fact. He may have come back sounding unchanged, but all of these emotions, feelings, and possible PTSD were boiling underneath the surface, unbeknowst even to Ugwu.
nyssaneala, you are right. Sometimes life altering trauma can take some time to kick in. Maybe if she'd just added an afterward, or something that let me, as a reader, know that these people weren't just going to go about their lives more or less unchanged (except for Olanna and Richard, of course), I would have been happier.Lisa, what did you do to cheer yourself up after reading both those books back-to-back? I found them very troubling.
Although I agree that Ugwu doesn't seem to have changed dramatically after his experience in the army, at the same time, it is only after he returns that he becomes the chronicler of other people's stories. Perhaps he is attempting to atone for his experiences and the deeds he committed as a soldier by becoming the sensitive, intellectual conduit for other people's stories of the war--he doesn't really express his own experiences, so he does so vicariously through others'.
That's a very interesting point, Sarah. I hadn't thought of that, but he does seem more preoccupied with everyone else's stories once he gets back to Olanna's house. Nice catch.
Sarah - excellent point. I think Adiche chose to show his changes as others on the outside would see them...rather than letting us inside his head to see what happened internally. His focus on writing after his experience is a good way to do this.
Perhaps he is attempting to atone for his experiences...:Aha! Thanks for pointing that out. I remember being surprised towards the end that it was Ugwu writing the book (earlier on I'd thought it was Richard's book). I think you're spot on in your assessment.
Regarding Ugwa - I guess I saw it differently. He was hardened by his experiences as a soldier and felt great guilt over what he had done. Like many men, he was not outwardly expressive of that, but I got the clear sense from the narrative that he was affected and changed by the experiences he went through. He was definitely not the same as he had been when he first came to the house in Nsukka at the age of 13.
I agree with Literary Feline on this. I do believe he felt great remorse.Sarah's point was excellent, too.
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