Yvonne owuor presents an intriguing protagonist in Boniface Louis R Kuseremane.  If you think his name is a mouthful, wait till you  read the words that make you reach for your inner Oxford Dictionary; or in other cases, the real one!

This is the story of a man who once had the universe at his feet. A man used to glamour, refined food, beautiful women and who travelled the globe on a whim. Boniface was once a royal prince of a French speaking African country. He finds himself  suddenly thrown into a world of dissarray when the political situation in his homeland brutally flings him  into an Anglophone country in exile. Kenya no less.

One cannot help but feel the plight, the bare vulnerability of a man brought to his knees in front of the the three woman that a man most values. For with him on this unfortunate journey are  his mother, his sister and his fiance.  Kuseremane is plagued by the struggles of adaptation. He tells his story is a simplistic way that belies his french roots.  And yet Yvonne’s mastery of the language comes through even as he tells his story. I found her choice of words refreshing  even as they did challenge me. It is a book for the lover of words and the art of using using words.

As a Nairobian, I find Kuseremane’s view of Kenyans quite amusing and strangely true.  He gives a candid, yet perplexed description of the bustle of Nairobi’s inner city alleys, the brashness of a people oblivious to a man drowning in despair.  He describes the grim reality of business deals at the hands of cons and businessmen alike. I particularly like how he keeps saying “ Kenyans and their shillings. “  He tackles corruption at all levels of industry in a gentle yet profound manner. You may smile, but it rings disturbingly  true.

It slowly dawns on Kuseremane and his family that few friends can stand the rain. His attempts to leave the country and go to Europe are met by stony silences. And as the days go on they brink on the very edge of povery.

As this story weaves on, I get involved with this man surrounded by all these people he cannot understand. It saddens me and wakes me up. This is a beautifully written piece. Small wonder that the author won the Caine Prize of 2003.

About The Author

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is a Kenyan fiction writer, conservationist, cultural activist and a past Executive director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Yvonne Owuor won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing for “Weight of Whispers,” a story told from the perspective of a refugee fleeing after the 1994 massacres. Since then, a number of her other stories have been published, including “Dressing the Dirge,” “The State of Tides,” and “The Knife Grinder’s Tale.”

Weight of Whispers was published by Kwani Trust in 2006 and it is part of the Kwanini series.  It is available at these bookshops for Kshs. 300 ($10).