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Kololo Hill

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Kololo Hill is a historical fiction featuring Ugandan Indians who traverse the horrors and hope of home. She becomes the bread winner; she refuses to be bullied by racists and becomes determined to build a new life. I loved the way the family dynamics were portrayed in this book, I felt like because the Gujrati tradition is so close to my own tradition, I enjoyed it a lot more.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. I don't have a creative writing BA or MA and I didn't start writing my first novel until I was in my late thirties. And all the while, a terrible secret about the expulsion hangs over them, threatening to tear the family apart. But the differences in their views mellow down in front of their underlying emotion and desire–to feel connected to a place, a home. Kololo Hill is a wonderful novel, at once intimate in it’s focus on one family, but at the same time it captures the universal experiences of so many who have had to flee their homelands, finding themselves at the mercy of other nations willing, or not, to offer them refuge.

Before publication, Kololo Hill won The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor Live, came second place in the First Novel Prize and York Festival of Writing Best Opening Chapter, was a finalist in the international Bath Novel Award and was longlisted for the Retreat West Novel Prize, Exeter Novel Prize and SI Leeds Literary Prize. I particularly loved the point of views from both Jaya and Asha as they served to demonstrate the changing position of women with their opposing views at times, coming from two different experiences as Indian women. Each character views life from a different lens, and their varied viewpoints add to the strength of the novel. Following a military coup that established a dictator in 1972 Uganda, a forcible exclusion and expulsion of the Indian minority was declared and commenced amidst brutal curfews and strict night patrols.

Shock can often render people literally speechless and thus she keeps the vision of death and butchery to herself. It is perhaps only through the lens of this distance that we can truly appreciate the legacy of these events, beautifully humanised through the struggle of one extended family as they are fractured and forced to leave behind everything they have known and owned in Kampala to make new lives in the UK. She is well aware of the weaknesses of her husband and she will express strong opinions, and act upon them when necessary (a characteristic shared by her daughter in law Asha). Its well written, and the passages surrounding forced evacuation and the sudden reality of being a displaced immigrant are memorable. The transition between the two halves of the novel is not only in terms of location and people but also in terms of the emotions running underneath, and she depicts this with clarity and ease.The novel is assiduous in the detail of their lives - the conversations, the climate, the assumed day-to-day routine of their existence, rendered in beautifully cinematic prose. Kololo Hill, in and of itself is synonymous with this implied hierarchy where the higher you go up the hill, the richer and more influential are its residents. Uganda comes alive in the capable hands of the author, the smells, the feel and the food, and in England their experience is, of course, discombobulatingly different. Kololo Hill opens with Asha seeing how far Amin’s forces will go to control Uganda, I’ll give you a hint, it is horrifying. Shah brought the novel to its end point with authenticity and a sense of what the future would hold for all concerned.

This is an astonishingly assured debut, written with passion and emotion for its subject matter without resorting to sentimentality or political agenda. Their future is now, however, sealed, the future is in London, which of course is so different (think Arnos Grove and a Ford Cortina) to Uganda. A poignant story of a family who lost everything they loved, trying to rebuild their lives in a country so different from their own, and one where the welcome they received, was as cold as the weather.i don't understand a single character's motivations and their thoughts are so unrealistic that it's clear they only exist for the reader to learn something about the character's past.

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