Kenya: Where the Best Turns to Dust?

I really like the synopsis for Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. It has it all – power, love, grief, death, and all the other basics for a good novel – as well as an exotic location. Sometimes when I reread the synopsis after I’ve read a book I wonder if the synopsis writer has read a different book, or if I have a completely different book on my mind. This is what happened to me with Dust.

The book tells the story of a brother and sister, their contemporary lives as well as their and the country’s history, political instability, and the subjects we can’t avoid in African literature: war and colonialism. I am sure it gives quite a nice overview of Kenyan history, but I just did not like the writing style at all, which means that at times I wasn’t able to enjoy the story they way I wanted to. I think I’ll give this book another try in a few years to see if I could get more out of it.

I know I would have loved the story and the book if the writing style would have been more appealing to me. Starting the book with a death scene was a good move from the author. It is not the only death in the book, but maybe the most powerful, and it sort of sets the story right there on page one.

I have read a few reviews about the book, and it makes me happy to see people appreciating the book they way I wish I had appreciated it. What I appreciated about the book was the honest way the author writes about her country. She writes about individuals, flawed individuals, no heroes or godlike superheroes. Everyone is ‘just’ a human.

The author herself has talked about Kenya killing off the best people in the country. She is definitely taking a stand on this in the book. A statement like this wakes up my inner researcher, and I will have to read up a bit more about Kenya. I have read some non fiction books about Kenya, but this was my first fictive story. The country has always fascinated me, and even though the writing style in this book was not to my liking, it triggered a new interest in Kenya.

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