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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of Post-Colonialism
Set in Kenya but could be a prototype for a native culture anywhere colonized, breaking free, then globalized which is an extension of colonialism. It is easy to understand why the author was imprisoned after the book's publication in 1977 as he presents a bleak view of what the Kenyans got in the way of leaders after independence from the white rulers. The viewpoint here...
Published on November 17, 2003 by Gail Moore

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars worthy but no pleasure to read,,
This is a revered classic about corruption in post colonial Kenya for which the author went to prison, and I don't presume to doubt its value to anyone studying the topic.
However I found it unutterably turgid to read: gave up once, went back to it with renewed vigor, got to p. 170 and thought 'no, life's too short'.
Perhaps it doesn't help that it's set in a...
Published on June 10, 2012 by sally tarbox


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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of Post-Colonialism, November 17, 2003
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
Set in Kenya but could be a prototype for a native culture anywhere colonized, breaking free, then globalized which is an extension of colonialism. It is easy to understand why the author was imprisoned after the book's publication in 1977 as he presents a bleak view of what the Kenyans got in the way of leaders after independence from the white rulers. The viewpoint here seems to be anyone "for the people" is assassinated, those that stay in power are stinking rich doing business with the former white rulers and selling out their own people.
The story opens with a brief introduction of the four main characters - Munira, Abdulla, Wanja and Karega - a triple murder has just taken place, 3 leading millionaire government officials of the city of Ilmorog were burned to death in their beds. We are then taken back twelve years in time to when Munira arrived in the sleepy, dusty village of Ilmorog to teach school, The four friends meet and we hear their individual stories, how they change over the years but more so how the place called Ilmorog changes, from a dusty village to a modern urban centre, and the effect on people who lived there for generations.

I found the book very dense reading at first, there so many African names introduced, also the style of writing with many flashback is challenging, but before page 100 I was sailing along and could hardly put the book down. There are many layers to this novel, it is a book about Africa, about the world history of black people in general, globalization, colonialism, and a murder mystery as well, the arsonist responsible for the triple murder is revealed to us by the end.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars multilayered and fascinating, February 20, 2001
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
This is a multilayered and fascinating book that addresses various problems in post-independence Kenya.What starts as a murder investigation with the detention of 4 people Munira,Abdullah,Karega and Wanja goes on to reveal issues such as corruption,politics,Urbanisation,social dislocation,colonialism,the emergency period and the African elite.As the novel unfolds the lives of the 3 people murdered entwines that of the detainees in numerous ways.It is also a who dunnit.The detainees are Munira- a teacher,Abdullah-an intinerant trader,Karega- a trade unionist and Wanja a scarlet lady..It is set mainly in the rustic village of Ilmorog in Kenya that later becomes a boomtown.Ngugi tells not only the story of Kenya but that of Africa and other colonised peoples worldwide.It is indeed as relevant today as it was in 1977 when published.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Searching for the Soul of Modern Kenya, November 8, 2000
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
It's not hard to see why Ngugi's Petals of Blood was so controversial in his native Kenya. Written in 1977, it is an angry cry against the betrayal of the independence struggle. The main characters each come to terms with the harsh disappointments of modern Kenya, a place that, in Ngugi's depiction, is dominated by corrupt businessmen and politicians who have quickly and conveniently forgotten the high ideals of the revolt they waged to expel the British.
Petals is set in Ilmorog, a village in upcountry Kenya so far from the beaten path that it does not even have a primary school. Munira, a schoolteacher, is sent there to set up such a school. The book opens twelve years after his arrival, as he is arrested in connection with the death of three leading officials in a suspicious fire. Much of the rest of the story is then told as a flashback, with Munira recounting the events unfolding from his arrival all the way up to the deadly fire. Among the other leading characters are Karega, an earnest but unsophisticated schoolteacher who evolves into a formidable union organizer; Wanja, a spirited, alluring "bar girl" and sometime entrepreneur who is the driving force in the plot and a love interest for Munira and Karega; and Abdulla, the crippled shopkeeper with a mysterious past. Although all four are transplants in Ilmorog, having been born and raised elsewhere, it is through their efforts that Ilmorog is "put on the map," a process that initially brings great benefits but ultimately leads to tragedy.
Ngugi probably intends Ilmorog's transformation as both a metaphor for and a microcosm of the moral decline of Kenya from the high hopes of post-independence to the business-as-usual corruption and thuggery of a generation later. He contrasts the innocence and wisdom of the village with the political opportunism, religious hypocrisy, and rampant cronyism of modern Kenya. That's not exactly an original theme but Ngugi describes it well.
While I valued the book for its insights into the dilemmas and disappointments of post-independence governance, I put it down more discouraged than uplifted. Perhaps it is unfair to ask Ngugi to do more than just paint the picture for us, but the novel would arguably have had a greater impact if it had given us greater hope and reason to believe that things can indeed change for the better.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an insightful, painful journey through disappointment in post-independence Kenya, June 6, 2007
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
Primary schoolteacher Godfrey Munira requests a posting at a far-away, rural location, hoping to escape his feelings of failure, his disappointment with himself. He is sent to the village of Ilmorog, where he crosses paths with Wanja, a beautiful bargirl come to live with her grandmother; Abdullah, a former freedom fighter who now runs a small shop and bar; and later Karega, a former student expelled from a prestigious secondary school for participating in a strike, then reduced to selling petty wares to tourists. These four friends (and sometimes lovers and sometimes rivals) participate with the native residents of Ilmorog through ups and downs, through drought and urbanization.

The principal theme of the book is disillusionment with independence, which replaced a few elite whites tightly holding power and money in Kenya with ... a few elite blacks holding power and money in Kenya. And as Ilmorog develops, just as in Kenya's post-independence transition, those who fought longest for change aren't those who see the benefits. The theme is not a happy one, and the novel holds out no clear solution (one character finds religion, another finds alcoholism, a third finds labor unions - and incredible hostility towards them by those in power) but it reflects true frustration on the part of many unable to climb out of abject poverty.

Thiongo's writing style is not swift-moving or action-packed, but the early pace reflects the pace of life in Ilmorog, and the action picks up as does life in the small town. Pushing through the slower parts is worthwhile: this book feels true to the frustration of many of Kenya's (and Africa's) poorest, disillusioned and searching for hope. Sometimes Thiong'o preaches too obviously through his characters, but the complaints are not his alone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Most Impressive Book, April 14, 2007
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This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
A most impressive book. Chinua Achebe said that through fiction you may not be able to tell fact but through fiction you can tell truth. This novel transcends post colonial Africa; it's a commentary on the universal human condition. The forces of greed corruption exploitation transcend borders. The bosses will be served. Well done Ngugi Wa Thiong'o.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile book but dense, confusing and depressing, May 8, 2012
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This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
This 1977 book was the choice of my international reading group at my local bookstore. It's a dense 410 pages long and tells the story of the traumatic transitions in Kenya as it shrugged off the bonds of British colonialism only to be trapped in the same kind of situation when the leaders were Kenyan. It is heavily philosophical and I found it a dense and often confusing read. It was hard for me to keep the characters straight and the tone of the book was totally depressing.

This is a story of oppression and it is weighed down with despair. I learned a lot from this book but I must admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when it was over.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Bloody Fruits of NeoColonial Decolonization, January 13, 2011
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
In a biting critique of the "New Kenya," Ngugi challenges the pillars of modern society in general.

When the modern world forces itself into the Ilmorog, each of the town's inhabitants must face it in its own way. Each step to coping with the modern world informs the inhabitants that they have thrown off the British yoke merely to replace it with an African one. Capitalism, European Religion and European education still dominate Kenya but merely have Africans syphoning off the wealth of the people.

Three African directors of an Anglo-German Brewery - the turncoat revolutionary, the Western school superintendent and the African headmaster of a private school - are murdered. The four suspects are each critics of the New Kenya in their own way.

Ngugi further critiques the modern world by even critiquing the critiques. The Marxist, the Revolutionary, the Capitalist Woman and the Evangelical cannot challenge the New Kenya since they themselves are still missing something real for they had not yet - as Ngugi once termed it - "Decolonized the Mind."

I would put this with the best of Ngugi that I have read. Not as good as Wizard of the Crow but on par with A River Between. 4 Stars!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Historical Account of Kenya in the 1960's, November 1, 2010
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This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
Sadly, former British Colonies nearly exclusively focussed their history lessons on Britain and Europe and so reading this excellent novel showed up my poor knowledge of African history. This was a book full of detail and depth which understandably had its critics from the New Fat Cats of post Kenyan independence. My only criticism was that the relatively recent edition I read did not have a glossary for the African words used and also notes about some of the real people mentioned in the novel as it would have made this very informative novel even more rewarding. The book too shows its time of writing (early 1970's) and some of the political jibes Ngugi makes are not as subtle as one might read if this book was written today. But these are minor faults compared to the rich tapestry Ngugi reveals of Kenya in the 1960's. The four main characters accused of murder: Wanja, Karega, Munira and Abdullah are wonderfuly developed as their intriguing lives and secrets are revealed. I strongly recommend this novel especially for anyone like me who had an overly biased British history education and wants to, albeit belatedly, understand African history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, April 11, 2007
By 
Barni A. Qaasim (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
This novel is amazing. It just gets better each time I read it. It is a skillful blend of humor, irony, emotion, drama, politics and theory. "The railroad ate the trees, which called upon the rains." This is a critique of the colonial effect on the environment, which at the same time offers a cause and solution for the drought and crop failures contributing to poverty and disease in our beloved Africa. All in one simple line! This book is a rich treasure chest, each page holds jewels!
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2.0 out of 5 stars worthy but no pleasure to read,,, June 10, 2012
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Petals of Blood (Paperback)
This is a revered classic about corruption in post colonial Kenya for which the author went to prison, and I don't presume to doubt its value to anyone studying the topic.
However I found it unutterably turgid to read: gave up once, went back to it with renewed vigor, got to p. 170 and thought 'no, life's too short'.
Perhaps it doesn't help that it's set in a culture with which I am so unfamiliar - it's peppered with (Swahili?) words which could do with a glossary.
Not for me
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Petals of Blood
Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiongo (Paperback - February 22, 2005)
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