Book #002: Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi(3.5/5).

When I read “Makumbi does for Ugandan literature what Chinụa Achebe did for Nigerian writing -Guardian” on the cover of this book, I was prepared to be bored out of my mind. I had expected a novel book of Ugandan proverbs disguised to be a novel. Yes I’m shading Things Fall Apart.

So, see, Achebe’s writing is the kind of writing I detest. I find his writing very boring. And you know, no one wants to be the nigerian writer who hasn’t read something from Achebe or Soyinka so I had to choose my devil. I’m not disputing the relevance of their books or the roles they’ve played in the nigerian literary space. I just think if I had three thousand naira to buy a book of my choice in 2020, it’s not going to be Things Fall Apart or Aké. Moving on.

This book (Manchester Happened) is nothing like I’d expected it to be. First off, turns out, it’s a short story collection. I didn’t realize that until after I’d spent two days trying to make sense of the prologue (Christmas is coming) and the first story, Our Allies The colonies. It doesn’t sound funny as I write it now, but I swear it was hilarious.

After two painful days, I finally figured it is a short story collection and got to reading again. It’s either two things; one, whoever wrote that blurb at Guardian has never read Achebe or, two, Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu (the book I assume the blurb is talking about) is as relevant to Uganda as Achebe’s writing is to Nigeria.

Now, I don’t power through short story collections like I do novels. Nothing against short story writers. I just prefer to read them over a few days or weeks because that’s the only way I feel each story can be appreciated. So, I decided I wouldn’t read everything from this book this week.

From what I gather, the collection is about the lives of Ugandans who have lived in or departed Manchester. As such, the book is divided into two parts. Part one is made of six stories and is titled departing and part two is made up of five stories and is returning. The short stories are definitely lengthier than what I’m used to reading. But the way Makumbi writes, like an elder sister telling you a story, makes it easy to read through and follow.

The Aftertaste of Success had me laughing out loud. Love Made In Manchester had me hissing and clicking all through and Let’s Tell This Story Properly had me convinced I’m not going to marry a Ugandan man in this lifetime.

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that the stories in this collection will make you feel something—the something you want to feel when you get lost inside stories.

PS: Ugandans are a lot like Nigerians. And they watch Nollywood too. Who knew?

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Amarachi Ike writes from Enugu, where she is currently studying Medicine at the University of Nigeria. She is an essayist, fiction writer, blogger and aspiring author.

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