The River Between

by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

KSh 565

The River Between is a 1965 novel by prolific Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o . It tells the story of the separation of two neighbouring villages of Kenya caused by differences in faith set in the decades of roughly the early 20th century. The bitterness between them caused much hatred between the adults of each side. The story tells about the struggle of a young leader, Waiyaki, to unite the two villages of Kameno and Makuyu through sacrifice and pain.

The novel is set during the colonial period, when white settlers arrived in Kenya’s “White Highlands”, and has a mountain setting.

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Description

 One of the most powerful novels by the great Kenyan author and Nobel Prize nominee

A legendary work of African literature, this moving and eye-opening novel lucidly captures the drama of a people and culture whose world has been overturned. The River Between explores life in the mountains of Kenya during the early days of white settlement. Faced with a choice between an alluring new religion and their own ancestral customs, the Gikuyu people are torn between those who fear the unknown and those who see beyond it.

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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan teacher, novelist, essayist, and playwright, whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of postcolonial writers. After imprisonment in 1978, Ngũgĩ abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favor of Gikuyu, his native tongue. The transition from colonialism to postcoloniality and the crisis of modernity has been a central issues in a great deal of Ngũgĩ's writings. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o was born in Kamiriithu, near Limuru, Kiambu District, as the fifth child of the third of his father's four wives. At that time Kenya was under British rule, which ended in 1963. Ngũgĩ's family belonged to the Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Gikuyu. His father, Thiong'o wa Nducu, was a peasant farmer, who was forced to become a squatter after the British Imperial Act of 1915. Ngũgĩ attended the mission-run school at Kamaandura in Limuru, Karinga school in Maanguu, and Alliance High School in Kikuyu. During these years Ngũgĩ became a devout Christian. However, at school he also learned about the Gikuyu values and history and underwent the Gikuyu rite of passage ceremony. Later he rejected Christianity, and changed his original name in 1976 from James Ngũgĩ, which he saw as a sign of colonialism, to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o in honor of his Gikuyu heritage.