A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

Most literary works about Rwanda, both fiction and non-fiction, focus on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. There are very few books which don’t have those atrocities at the centre of their narratives (although I have read a couple: Roz Carr’s memoir and Gaile Parkin’s feel-good novel). However, it’s not at all surprising as these events are still haunting every Rwandan – I don’t think there is one national of this country who was not affected by it. Everyone here lost someone in the 1990s. Canadian journalist and author Gil Courtemanche arrived in Rwanda shortly after the Genocide but in his first novel, first published in Canada in 2000 (the English translation came out in 2003), he managed to recreate the horrible events in such a convincing way that it reads like a very moving memoir.  Continue reading “A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche”

Garden of the Plagues by Russel Brownlee

I can’t remember where or when I got this book, but most probably at some charity sale in Pretoria as it cost me only R30 (about $2), according to the sticker. I do remember that the title caught my attention, and then the recommendation blurb from Andre Brink, one of South Africa’s greatest writers. But it sat on the shelf for a couple of years, and I finally decided to read it during my recent holidays in South Africa. I thought I’d try this concept of reading a book about a place I’m visiting, so I took “Garden of the Plagues” and “Heartland” by Jann Turner, both of which are novels set in the Cape but their contexts are quite different. The latter tells a great story of love, friendship and historical change as South Africa faces the new dawn after the fall of apartheid (and I’ll post a review later). Brownlee’s book is set in the 17th century though, at the start of European colonisation of this part of the world, and I found his portrayal of this period quite fascinating. Continue reading “Garden of the Plagues by Russel Brownlee”

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

The vast majority of books on Rwanda, of which most are non-fiction, deal with the genocide. It makes for a rather heavy reading, and after a while one feels exhausted and starts to feel more and more frustrated or numb. Therefore, it’s quite refreshing to read an uplifting story of post-genocide Rwanda, even though the tragic events of 1994 still feature in the characters’ stories.  Continue reading “Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin”

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

There is this rare kind of books which explain things so well that after reading them you feel that this is all you need to know, everything else will seem like a footnote or an afterword. This is not to say that those other books won’t be of any value. Footnotes and afterwords are often very informative after all, and provide an even wider perspective. But they will simply be forever overshadowed by that one special book. If you want to know more about the Rwandan Genocide and have it explained clearly and comprehensively, but you don’t want to or don’t have time to read more than one book, then you’ll be pleased to know that this one book exists. I finished reading it a few weeks ago but the images and emotions that it evoked in me don’t seem to fade away.  Continue reading “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch”

Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Halsey Carr

All books about Rwanda that I have read so far had the Genocide at the centre of their narratives. Indeed, there isn’t much written about this country that would not concentrate solely on the tragic events of 1994. But there is so much more to Rwanda than that, and I am happy to say that Rosamond Halsey Carr’s memoir of her life in the Land of a Thousand Hills is one of the most extraordinary stories I have read. Continue reading “Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Halsey Carr”