AFRIKULT.’S OVERALL RATING:
With lyrical flair, Peter Kimani whisks the reader on a journey of the Iron Snake railway as it travels from the coast and cuts through dense forestry. The advent of the railway is the advent of Kenya’s colonisation, which beckons indentured labourers from India to its shores, a country also currently colonised by the British. In its complicated tracks, Kimani masterfully lays one story of Kenya’s history, probing ideas of national identity and belonging, and love lost through the beginnings of the Lunatic Express to the Big Man leading the country towards her independence.
Through the eyes of a third generation migrant Indian, Rajan Salim, music becomes the essence of the novel and his unexpected love affair with Mariam unveils a dark secret that uncannily connects the shared lives of Babu, McDonald, and Turnball.
Reading this novel is like having a song of hope, despair and frustration remixed and sung to you through poetic notes and iconic imagery. By not having an African tell the story, Kimani poses the question of who is given license to tell an African story and who can truly claim identity of an arbitrary state. Furthermore, Kimani asks us to review how African history has been perceived through the mechanism of fiction, and what we, as readers, have believed to be true. This is a beautiful novel with fragments of stunning writing that catch you, a page at a time.
Published in March 2018 by Saqi Books.