Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book 20 - Burn my heart by Beverley Naidoo - Kenya

Matthew and Mugo - two boys who live on the same Kenyan land. Both their families see the land as their own. Mugo's grandfather left the land to fight for his country and when he returned found it had been given to Matthew's father. He left his son (Mugo's father) to work for the white family now claiming his land so he could watch over it. Matthew has no knowledge of this but Mugo knows more than it is wise to let the boss's son know. Mugo is the kitchen hand but he is often drawn into Matthew's games and adventures. The have an uneasy friendship which becomes even more comlicated as Matthew is sent off to a white boys boarding school and becomes friends with other white landowners sons. Mugo's own big brother is implicated in Mau Mau activity and both families find themselves in opposing sides of a land conflict which is growing every day.

Kenya in the 1950s saw a Mau Mau uprising, when native Kenyans tried to reclaim their land by force several decades after white settlers came and claimed the land as their own. The Mau Mau uprising was bloody and violent. Violence stemming from both the whites in power upon suspected participants as well as Kenyans turning against fellow Kenyans who did not want to participate. 12,000-20,000 Kenyans died.

Beverley Naidoo is an accomplished writer who brings great insight into African life into all her writings. This novel is no exception. It has much that will lead to great discussion for readers. The obvious theme of loyalty is explored - loyalty to friends, loyalty to family, loyalty to your own people.

The cover art is well done. I like how the front cover shows a face and the head lookslike a heart. Below is the full jacket with the other side of the friendship shown.
 Beverley Naidoo's website with details of the book
The Guardian's review.