Friday, April 13, 2007

Laura's Review - Beasts of no Nation

Uzodinma Iweala
142 pages

First sentence: It is starting like this.

Reflections: This fictional account of an African boy soldier is a powerful and disturbing book. I managed through it, but barely. I thought, with only 142 pages, that it would just take a day or two to read. But I found it so intense, I could only read one to two chapters in a sitting. The brutality of war, and the brutality of conscripting children to fight that war -- it was just too much.

One form of abuse involved giving the children drugs prior to going into battle. "Across the stream, I am feeling in my body something like electricity and I am starting to think: Yes it is good to fight." (p. 45) The main character, Agu, is sexually abused by his commanding officer. He longs for his family: "I am remembering my mother and how she is so good to me that each time she is hugging me that is all I am needing to see the dark skin of her arm holding me close to her ..." (p. 106) Nevertheless, he begins to identify with his fellow soldiers, and his commanding officer, as his new family. But after a time he begins to see the futility of war and feels trapped: "...I am fearing because I am seeing that the only way not to be fighting is to die. I am not wanting to die." (p. 116)
This is not a book I would enthusiastically recommend but it was certainly a conciousness-raiser.


kookiejar said...

What do you think of it, compared to 'Half of a Yellow Sun'? It seemed to me that the boy in 'Beasts' fought in a much more brutal war than the boy in 'Yellow Sun'.

Laura said...

kookiejar, I agree with you about the brutality. I enjoyed 'Half of a Yellow Sun' more, mostly because the characters were more developed and the plot more complex. And, probably because it was not so brutal. That aspect was really difficult for me.