Beth's Reviews > A Bend in the River

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
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's review
Jan 05, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: 1001-books, 6-books-6-countries-6-continents, around-the-world-group, nobel
Read from January 01 to 05, 2012 — I own a copy
BCID: 8512710

I liked this book, but compared with some of my Africa reads from last year (Nervous Conditions, Things Fall Apart, and Devil on the Cross), it did not move me as much as I'd hoped. There was a vibrancy in all the books I have just mentioned that was missing in this book. This book had a colder, calculated, more observational tone. The former books were written by native Africans who clearly had passion for their countries and their experiences of post-colonial life. Naipal is Trinidadian, and his character is from an Islamic Indian family that had settled in earlier generations on the East African Coast, part of a wave of colonization by Asia and Islam that preceded European control of these areas. The protagonist is of Africa, and yet not, especially as he has moved inland from his coastal country of birth into an inland bush country along the river at the heart of the continent. His perspective is colored by this identity, and he struggles with questions of how he fits in the volatile fabric of life in his small river town. This book, too, explores themes of African identity, political tyranny, and European influence in post-colonial Africa, and it leaves one feeling pretty grim. Unlike the African authors who write on these themes, Naipal cannot convey the depth of tragedy or undercurrent of profound love for a troubled homeland that produced the richer experience I had with the books mentioned above. I am still glad to have read the book and to have had insight into this other world of experience, but I have not had my world transformed in any meaningful way in the reading of this book.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Timothy Smith Hello Beth,
A Bend in the River has always been one of my favorite books and I see that you gave it a high rating as well. It’s a book that I often thought about as I wrote my own novel, Cooper’s Promise, which I think you might enjoy.

Also set in Africa, Cooper’s Promise plays out against the background of the continent’s chronic civil wars as opposed to Naipaul’s post-independence chaos. It’s a more contemporary book and touches on topics of human trafficking and blood diamonds. My writing is sparer than Naipaul’s but I aim for the same rich visual texture and sense of place—which is one of the things that stands out for me in A Bend in the River.

Cooper's Promise tells the story of a soldier who vows to save a young girl who's been trafficked in order to redeem himself for another promise he couldn’t keep. It's exciting, fast-paced, and literary at the same time. It was twice shortlisted for the prestigious Faulkner-Wisdom Competition, and the screenplay adaptation has won five grand prizes and first places in addition to distinctions for Best Original Drama and Best Male Lead.

Here’s a link to the Nook version:

Here’s a link to Amazon:

You will find a synopsis on either site.

Thanks, and keep on reading -- it gives us writers hope.


message 2: by Beth (last edited Apr 22, 2012 02:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth The reviews on Amazon are much better press for the book than the synopsis! I will have to check it out. I think the last gay love story I read was Such Times by Christopher Coe, so I'm way overdue. I've never read a gay, international, literary thriller. Uh oh. Sounds RIGHT up my alley, but I'll have to make room in my insane reading plans for it. Still, you convinced me--it's going on the Kindle...

Timothy Smith Great. Thanks. Tim

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