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The River Between

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  1,852 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
Christian missionaries attempt to outlaw the female circumcision ritual and in the process create a terrible rift between the two Kikuyu communities on either side of the river.
Paperback, 152 pages
Published August 11th 2008 by Pearson (first published 1965)
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Dec 12, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it
I found this story to be very reminiscent of one of my favourite books, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, as both stories deal with the turmoil, changes and confusion that arose in Africa after Christianity was introduced. In The River Between, two communities of Kikuyu (a Kenyan ethnic group), one Christian, the other traditional, struggle as the Christian group tries to outlaw female circumcision, which they believe to be a pagan practice, while the traditionals being distrustful of the “whit ...more
Oct 08, 2016 Sawsan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
الكاتب الكيني نجوجي واثيونجو بدأ الكتابة عام 1964 باللغة الانجليزية
وفي السبعينيات بدأ يكتب بلغته الأصلية لغة الجيكويو والسواحيلية لغة بلاد شرق أفريقيا
لإحياء اللغات الأفريقية التي حاول الاستعمار تهميشها
واثيونجو من المدافعين بشدة عن اللغة والثقافة المحلية الأفريقية في مواجهة الثقافة الغربية
الرواية عن كينيا في فترة الاستعمار البريطاني, وانقسام المجتمع بين الرافضين والموالين للمستعمِر والصدام الفكري والديني بين الفريقين
واياكي الشخصية الرئيسية في الرواية يُمثل الشباب الذي يؤمن بأن التعليم هو بداية
A subtle and rhythmic book on the impact of colonialism in a Kenyan people. This focuses on the clash of interests and views between a tribes' past traditions, and the missionary tradition of Christianity. One would first attempt to sympathize with the culture that is under attack, but then you realize that a key element of that culture is female circumcision. As such, women are a main discussion poinnt of this book, but here they have very little agency.

You grow accustomed to the writing style
May 03, 2016 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it was published after Weep Not, Child, this is the first book Ngugi wrote. For me, it contrasts with later works like Wizard of the Crow, which gives the strong impression of being written for the people it is about, (with the exception of the corrupt ruling class) whereas this book, I feel, unintentionally stands apart, employing a degree of ironic social critique, for example when parents mistake beatings by teachers for good pedagogy. The later work exudes affirmation and encouragem ...more
Robert Wechsler
Oct 09, 2014 Robert Wechsler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-lit
I read this novel because I thought Ngugi would win the Nobel Prize today, but he did not. In any event, I’m glad I read it, because it has been very long since I read his work (since reading A Grain of Wheat in high school, not long after it was published).

I was struck by the rhythm not of Ngugi’s prose, but of his telling of the story, the repetitions, hesitations, thought processes, excitements, rememberings, and fears. The writing itself is not of much interest. The fablistic, traditional, a
Dec 23, 2013 Donald rated it really liked it
Ngugi tells a tale of the divisions in a community in Kenya brought on my colonialism and Christianity. The rift grows as each of the major divisions solidify their positions amid the invasion of the country. The focus of the battle is between the Kenyans rather than the invaders, reminiscent of how in the diaspora the frustration of communities often gets turned on to itself rather than the wider system that creates and sustains those kind of divisions. An important read for black Americans bec ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Thepocobookreader rated it really liked it
Often compared with Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart, The River Between is a defining piece of POCO lit. Written in 1961 in the wake of the Mau Mau uprising and the context of recent and bitter memories, The River Between represents colonialism as an economic grab of resources, with education, language and Christianity being subordinate to that aim. As missionaries settle in the land and establish Christian ideals, the rifts between two Kikuyu communities, one Christian and one traditional, is explor ...more
The book is about the disturbances and conflict in Kenya during the English occupation. The Christian missionaries, who saw themselves as superior and civilized, forced their way of life on the people of Kenya, took over their land and wanted them to pay tax. Many people of Kenya didn’t want to change.

In the book, it all comes down to the issue of circumcision. The Christians are against women circumcision. The tension grows more and more, because of this. The tribe does it because it is traditi
Dec 27, 2014 Ema rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014, kenya
Cum știu foarte puține lucruri despre cultura kenyană, romanul lui Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o a fost o incursiune interesantă într-o lume guvernată de tradiții și ritualuri străvechi, a cărei armonie și autenticitate sunt tulburate de sosirea oamenilor albi și a credinței creștine. Sunt vremuri de profunde schimbări, în care membrii triburilor ies din ignoranța lor fericită pentru a cunoaște beneficiile dar și blestemul civilizației. Ei sunt deposedați de pământurile lăsate de părinții neamului lor, sunt ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Arukiyomi rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
This is a very important book and a pretty good read too. If you’ve read and appreciated Things Fall Apart, this is cast in the same vein and you will appreciate this.

Written in a similar lyrical style to The Life and Times of Michael K or Cry, The Beloved Country, The River Between tells the story of gradually deepening rifts in a community as the influences of colonialism make themselves felt. Factions appear and the battles between them force each and every individual to choose.

The vehicle fo
N. Jr.
Jan 10, 2015 N. Jr. rated it really liked it
Shelves: cross-culture
An excellent description of the typical dilemma African culture has faced
since the introduction of Christianity, and the divisions it caused during the time when colonialism became fully entrenched. The challenge of cultural development is still relevant today, and this book is a good start in initiating discussion as to how this conundrum can be resolved.

The book presents the problem in the form of two villages on opposite sides of a river in the Central Highlands of Kenya, one clinging to trad
Jul 28, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
This book illustrates powerful tensions between tribal ways and Christian ways in Africa in the time of Livingstone, the famous missionary. Both sides incur guilt. The novel effectively uses imagery of shedding blood to point to a human longing for redemption, but characters struggle with different visions of where that redemption will come from. Will it come through keeping the purity of the old tribal rituals (including circumcision of both the male and female variety)? Will it come through ed ...more
Nancy Freund
Nov 04, 2015 Nancy Freund rated it really liked it
I was first recommended this author and this novel by three well-read Tanzanian friends, bought it immediately, but then set it aside. Recently a new friend from Nairobi said she considers Ngugi Wa Thiong'o the most authentic writer of Africa, and this is in fact her second choice novel among his works. (She praises 'A Grain of Wheat' first). But I finally read this one, and I'm glad I did.
This is not a Disney version of African culture, even as its plot would seem to follow a familiar narrative
”Râul care ne desparte” este o carte care cuprinde și surprinde, între copertele sale, un univers aparte aflat la granița dintre tradiție și modern. Grație stilului simplu, clar, fără artificii, al propozițiilor și frazelor scurte, al dialogurilor și portretizărilor succinte, cuvintele capătă putere, schimbă destine, stârnește revolte, dragoste și ură. Spusă din perspectiva unui narator omniscient (pe alocuri parțial omniscient, lăsând spații libere de completat de către cititori), povestea este ...more
Stephen Durrant
Jun 27, 2009 Stephen Durrant rated it liked it
Ngugi (b. 1938) is a highly regarded Kenyan writer who has written novels and plays both in English, such as the novel under review here, and in Gikuyu. "The River Between" centers upon a young man named Waiyaki, who supposedly descends from tribal leaders of great power. Waiyaki dreams of healing a split that has occurred in his valley between those who are attracted to Christianity, with its access to education and the power of the white man, and traditionalists who uphold age-old tribal pract ...more
Nov 02, 2011 Darryl rated it really liked it
This short novel is set in colonial Kenya, in an isolated region where two rival populations each live on a ridge separated by a river that nourishes—and erodes—the land of both communities. One community is mainly Christian, led by a local man who has embraced the colonialists' religion and rejects traditional values, particularly circumcision of young men and women; the other is based on tribal traditions, led by a group of elders and influenced by a young man who is descended from a rich line ...more
Aug 18, 2010 Gato22 rated it liked it
This book provided a fascinating perspective on the internal divisions that emerged among Gikuyu families in Kenya, as some adopted Christianity and European customs while others tried to preserve their own religion and traditions - and other tried to unite the two groups. The book was rich with cultural and historical detail, but the characters seemed to be archetypes rather than real people.

Stylistically, in fact, the whole book read more like a fable than a novel. It seemed that the plot and
Talbot Hook
Dec 01, 2014 Talbot Hook rated it really liked it
There was an excellent chapter in the middle of the book, wherein the main character, Waiyaki, was making connections between rivulets and drops of rain, and the white settlers that were impacting his native land. It was truly well done, and I will not ruin it here by summarizing.

The sheer amount of parallelism, however, was a bit much. It was too obvious, the demarcation of this duality, at times; the existence of the two hills, two peoples, two ways of life, the lovers on either side was more
Jun 07, 2014 Ak rated it it was amazing
Ngugi Wa Thiong'o is such a prolific writer that captures every detail that if you are familiar woith the settings of whatever piece he is written, it is easier to imagine and identify with.The River Between captures the pre-colonial Kenya..the advent of the missionaries and then the white settlers.He exposes the changes that take place as battles are drawn between those that collaborate (led by Joshua) and those opposed to the 'Butterflies'-(Missionaries & White Settlers) led by Kabonyi.It ...more
Tim Prasil
Aug 31, 2012 Tim Prasil rated it really liked it
I teach a class in literature of the non-Western world, and--with some hesitation--I adopted this novel for my students. The hesitation came from the topic and custom of circumcision, both male and female, which serves as a point of conflict as an indigenous culture meets Christian missionaries and other forms of colonization.

Happily, the topic is handled very well. In fact, the emphasis of the novel is on the protagonist who strives to mediate between the divisions erupting in his community. Hi
Dora Okeyo
Jun 03, 2011 Dora Okeyo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Love this book! It is a must read for anyone who wants to know how fickle humans can be. The lead character, Waiyaki, wants to bring about change in his community but they do not see his side of the story and in the end, those who once saw him as their son, neighbor, villager-turn their backs on him and he is left to fight a battle in which solely he cannot win.
Just goes to show that if you are fighting for change, not everyone will support you and you have to be prepared to walk alone. Love thi
Jun 07, 2008 Pesh rated it liked it
this book was my first encounter with the difficulties and sacrifices that come with fallin in love, considering that i read it in my early teens- the culture clash that tears a whole community apart regardless.
Siyamthanda Skota
Sep 12, 2016 Siyamthanda Skota rated it liked it
- Yearning. Yearning. Was life all a yearning and no satisfaction?
Dec 04, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was ok
An interesting glimpse into life on the ridges in the age of colonialism.

The characters had strong voices and it was easy to understand their perspectives, despite this book being written in third person. Not my usual genre, I read this as a literature text, which could make my review of this book biased, but I do think the story was a little monotonous if boring at times, but then again it is well written with good ideas.

Also this book has short chapters, say one chapter to 3 or 4 pages, and t
Deniz Balcı
Jan 02, 2017 Deniz Balcı rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Benim için 2017'nin ilk kitabı 'Aradaki Nehir' oldu. Afrika'dan da bir edebiyat çıktığını tüm dünyaya gösteren en önemli yazarlardan olan Thiongo, kesinlikle alışılmışın dışında bir dünya ve bakış açısı sunuyor bize.

Kenya kabilelerinden iki tanesinin Beyaz Adam'larla tanışmasını ve bir kesimin görece yozlaşıp, diğer kesimin de geleneklerinden yana fanatikleşmesini ve bunların çatışmalarını ele alan kitap; tartışmalı savlarla dolu. Özellikle kadın sünneti ile ilgili savunucu taraf insanı biraz ir
Araz Goran
رواية جيدة وهي التجارب القليلة التي أخوضها مع الأدب الأفريقي.. أفريقيا حيث المشاكل التي لا تنتهي والحروب التي تُزهق فيها الأرواح بسبب وبغير سبب ، يحكي الكاتب هنا عن فترة حرجة من تاريخ كينيا حيث المشاكل القبيلة بسبب الدين الجديد ومعارك الجيل الجديد للدخول في التعليم وبدأ مرحلة جديدة..

القصة تبدو كمزيج من الخرافات القبيلة مع روح تلك الحقبة الأليمة من تاريخ البلاد.. حاول أن يرسم صورة النهر كفاصل بين عهدين كلاهما مر ، وسطر فيها مشاهد مؤلمة حيث لابد أن الإنسان هو الطرف الأول والأخير من تلك المأساة الم
Kasonde Mukonde
Dec 11, 2016 Kasonde Mukonde rated it it was amazing
Ngũgĩ is an excellent storyteller. In a less than 200 pages, he brilliantly paints a picture of a society in flux -- grappling with the introduction of Western values and their effect on the unity (or disunity) of the tribe. Will our humanity survive this assault on dignity and way of life? Can education alone save us from total cultural collapse or will a political movement be necessary? Who will lead this revolution and how will we define success? A must read for all Africans, all colonized pe ...more
Nov 17, 2016 Ellie rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-reading

I usually like character-based stories, but this one went nowhere. The entire time our protagonist went back and forth, making no progress on his decisions throughout the story. The reason for the extra star is that the writing and descriptions were beautiful, but this book needed a better story to highlight the writing.

This was school reading, and while it was definitely a more challenging read, it was not interesting plot wise nor in characters for my taste.
Edwin Owino
Oct 27, 2016 Edwin Owino rated it really liked it
According to Ngũgĩ, this was the first novel he ever wrote although "Weep Not Child" was the first to be published. There is a lot that is good with this book, however, I can't give it five stars because there seem to be fairly substantial gaps at the end of each chapter which makes the reading of this book not to be as fluid as would be. As it is with the two subsequent books, there are no obvious heroes, all the major characters have flaws which make them more realistic.
Jan 02, 2017 Allrosenthal rated it liked it
A parable of colonialism and the difficulty of forging a unified Kenyan native identity.
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Shelfari 1001 group: The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o 2 4 Aug 04, 2016 05:41AM  
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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 ha ...more
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