Books and Movies Reviews

The River Between & Nectar in a Sieve

Successful and highly praised novels always stand out because the literature has great characters, fascinating and sometime bitter ironies, clashes, conflicts, and noteworthy objectives that rise far above the actual plot structure and embrace much bigger worldly themes. Symbolism is always part of good literature, and the alert reader should be mindful that nearly every important situation presented in the novel could be placed on a bigger stage in terms that make the book more universal. In other words, in both of the novels reviewed in this paper, The River Between and Nectar in a Sieve, the characters are doing things that have application to people and cultures everywhere else on the planet. And in both novels, the struggle between and within cultures is not only against other cultures but also against the changing times and the modernization (globalization) of the planet.
What a reader finds immediately profound and dramatic about The River Between is the symbolism of the two mountains (ridges) laying "side by side" with a river running between. In the story, the two cultures are dead set against one another, with opposing religious beliefs and values. The culture living on the Makuyu ridge subscribes to the Christian beliefs, having been affected and greatly influenced by the British colonial indoctrination; but the tribe living on the Kameno ridge – where the story's protagonist, Waiyaki lives, wants to continue the old cultural traditions (like polytheism and circumcision). In fact Waiyaki is anxious for his circumcision to happen, notwithstanding the hideous feelings a reader gets as the author describes what it is like to be circumcised.
"This would mark his final initiation into manhood. Then he would prove his courage, his manly spirit," Ngugi writes on page 14. In every culture young men are seeking the path to manhood, to stability and a position of respect. "The knife produced a thi…


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