Ugwu feels quite privileged to have been chosen to work for Master. Most people in his small village in Nigeria are not given the opportunity to work for someone who provides such fine quarters, good food, and an education as his Master is offering him. He also has the opportunity to overhear Master’s exuberant discussions with his regular guests, other professors and intellectuals discussing the political upheaval of their time. And as Ugwu helps Master prepare for the coming of Olanna, Master’s love, Ugwu watches change come not only to their household, but to Nigeria itself.
In some ways this is a monumental saga, portraying one family’s experience of the devastating Nigerian-Biafran war of the late 1960’s. The author is able to illustrate the complexity of the war – the tribalism, the massacres that preceded the war, the sheer indifference with which the world treated those who were starving to death. In other ways, there is something missing, something somewhat detached in the writing that keeps the reader just this side of being fully invested in the story. With the exception of Ugwu, who has a sweetness and a naivety to him, most of the characters have a chilliness that seem to keep not only the reader but even each other at bay.
This is not an easy book to read but I’m so glad I did. I think you will be too.