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How Beautiful We Were: A Novel af Imbolo…
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How Beautiful We Were: A Novel (udgave 2021)

af Imbolo Mbue (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
6292937,417 (3.83)62
"'We should have known the end was near.' So begins Imbolo Mbue's exquisite and devastating novel How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by a large and powerful American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean up and financial reparations to the villagers are made--and ignored. The country's government, led by a corrupt, brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight the American corporation. Doing so will come at a steep price. Told through multiple perspectives and centered around a fierce young girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, Joy of the Oppressed is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghosts of colonialism, comes up against one village's quest for justice--and a young woman's willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people's freedom"--… (mere)
Medlem:melonah
Titel:How Beautiful We Were: A Novel
Forfattere:Imbolo Mbue (Forfatter)
Info:Random House (2021), 384 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:to-read, not-released-yet

Work Information

How Beautiful We Were af Imbolo Mbue

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» Se også 62 omtaler

Engelsk (25)  Hollandsk (2)  Tysk (1)  Alle sprog (28)
Viser 1-5 af 28 (næste | vis alle)
#ReadAroundTheWorld. #Cameroon

“I know nothing about how a girl makes men pay for their crimes, but I have the rest of my life to figure it out.”

Imbolo Mbue brings us a story set in the 1980s in a fictional African village Kosawa, presumably based on her native Cameroon. This is a powerful hard-hitting story about greed, colonialism and environmental exploitation.

An American oil company Pexton has been drilling for oil in Kosawa and consequently contaminating the water causing the deaths of many. Initially the villagers believe the American assurances that they will leave and all will be well, but one day the village madman deviates from his stereotype and steps up to lead a revolution against the oppressors.

The main character in the book is a girl called Thula who eventually goes to study overseas and returns as an activist. The point of view shifts between Thula, her family and her classmates, all of them deeply impacted by the tragedy, and each bringing their own insights such as:

“We wondered if America was populated with cheerful people like that overseer, which made it hard for us to understand them: How could they be happy when we were dying for their sake?”

"I told her that on all sides the dead were too many—on the side of the vanquished, on the side of the victors, on the side of those who'd never chosen sides. What good were sides? Who could ever hail themselves triumphant while they still lived? Perhaps someday, I added, after all the dead have been counted, there will be one number for the living to ponder, though the number will never tell the full story of what has been lost."

This story exposes the evils of corruption and greed and highlights the extent and impact of environmental disasters which are often covered up. I can understand why the author chose not to name the location as she does not spare the government and the dictator for their complicity and corruption either. I think this is a powerful important book with a clear and strong message. 5 stars. ( )
  mimbza | Apr 7, 2024 |
This takes place in an unnamed country in Africa under a dictator’s thumb. He has made a deal with an oil company that the company may take all the oil under one village’s land.

The dictator makes masses of money from this project. The oil company also makes masses of money, especially as it turns out, they had signed an agreement that they have no responsibility for consequences for the villagers’ health, the taking of their land or disruption of their way of life. At first the villagers are excited to learn there will be jobs. But very few of them receive jobs or money. Those who do seem to be creatures owned by the company. The environmental impacts are huge: oil spills destroy farm land, the once pristine river has been dubbed the River of Death due to its chemical load and constant burning at the oil site destroys the air.

When children sicken and die, the men of the village organize a delegation to the capital to talk to the government, but the delegation disappears. Another delegation then goes to check on the first with discouraging results. The dictator solves the complaints by sending in in his military to permanently quiet the villagers by massacring them.

An international justice organization takes up the case to expose the American oil company. At first it seems things will get better as the company agrees on some reparations and bottled water for the children. They provide secondary schooling for the older children and the best scholar in the village, a girl named Thula, is sponsored to go to the United State for college and post graduate work. She learns how ordinary people can stand together to change the course of history.

But nothing really changes – more broken promises, more violence and killings. It’s a pattern that has repeated itself since the first Europeans arrived in the area to take slaves and then later ‘recruited’ workers for their rubber plantations. It’s a story of greed and money and ‘might making right’ whether the might belongs to the colonialists, the corporations, or the leaders within the country itself. All is compounded by suspicions of tribes against each other and the naïve belief of the villagers that if the authorities only knew about the people’s suffering, they would act to fix it.

This book is pretty bleak. Are there answers? I’m also left (as I’m sure the Cameroonian author intended) contemplating how much responsibility belongs to the western nations using the oil.

This is well written with just enough hope dangled that circumstances will change to keep me reading. ( )
  streamsong | Apr 6, 2024 |
“We should have known the end was near,” the story begins. “When the sky began to pour acid and rivers began to turn green, we should have known our land would soon be dead.”

How Beautiful We Were takes place in a fictional African country, but the story bears a close resemblance to some very similar problems in real life. The book explores topics, such as imperialism, political corruption, environmental destruction, acts of rebellion, and courage.

Imbolo Mbue is a highly talented writer. Considering the topic, the book is sobering and difficult to read, yet she writes it so beautifully. I’m officially a fan of Imbolo Mbue!

( )
  nadia.masood | Dec 10, 2023 |
When the American oil company first started work on the village's lands, the villagers were excited about the benefits and improvements that were sure to come. But what followed were lands destroyed and dying children, the water undrinkable and the village stuck between a company that insists that they'd like to help, but their hands are tied, and a government that silences anyone who might get in the way of the current arrangements.

This isn't a fun read, but it is an informative one. Mbue has made some interesting decisions about how she told this story, including the use of the first person plural for some chapters, a choice that works far better here than in other places I've encountered it. This is very much a book written by an African (Mbue was born in Cameroon and now lives in New York) for an American audience but it isn't a book that coddles the reader. It explains without over-simplifying. At heart, though, this is less a novel propelled by a story than one motivated by a cause. ( )
1 stem RidgewayGirl | Feb 2, 2023 |
Imbolo Mbue 's second novel, How Beautiful We Were provides an insider's
view of a village whose eden-like existence is ruined by the discovery of oil.
In a village called Kosovo, the oil under the ground winds up being a curse since the American company Pexton started drilling. "Within a year, fishermen broke down their canoes and found new uses for the wood. Children began to forget the taste of fish. The smell of Kosawa became the smell of crude. The noise from the oil field multiplied; day and night we heard it in our bedrooms, in our classroom, in the forest. Our air turned heavy". The use of various narrators and even a Greek Chorus entitled The Children provide the various insights of narrative which reads like a fable. The children have become sick and the once beautiful area is polluted. As the title implies, there's a lot of reminiscing about what this village used to be like.
The story starts with the Pexton, (sound like Exxon), men coming to both hear and ignore the grievances, but the village madman takes their keys and won't let them return. It takes the madman to truly see that no one will listen unless they do something to make them. The second chapter is written in first person from Thula whose father went to reason with the company in the city. The men continue to feel that if they could only talk to the men in charge they would understand and stop the pollution. These men have not been exposed to greed. He and a few men took buses and supposedly met with the company to complain about the death of the children, but they never returned. The mayor, who has profited from the company, just tries to keep the peace. When armed men come looking for the missing company men, they are told that perhaps they are visiting relatives, and the town gets a conspiratorial chuckle at their successful deception. The chuckles will stop soon after.
Mbue goes on to chart the next couple decades and centers her story around Thula as the prodigal child going off to America to get educated, always promising to come back and resolve this problem. I recommend you read to find out if she does.
Lines:
Opening-
We should have known the end was near. When the sky began to pour acid and rivers began to turn green, we should have known our land would soon be dead.”

“Someday, when you’re old, you’ll see that the ones who came to kill us and the ones who’ll run to save us are the same. No matter their pretenses, they all arrive here believing they have the power to take from us or give to us whatever will satisfy their endless wants.”

I had just turned nineteen. I remember I wore a layer of anxiety that day—I’d reached marriage age with no one handsome in sight. A man in my village named Neba was my only option, but I couldn’t look past his nostrils, which flared like a windswept skirt.

In our response, we reminded her of the story about the ants that killed the growling dog, bite by bite. We could do such a thing too. There was no better time to start biting Pexton than now.

She had the fortitude of the sun—no matter how dark and thick the clouds, she was confident she could melt them and emerge in full glory.

Wasn’t it time every tribe started looking out for itself? they wondered. My sister tried to argue against such thinking. She tried to contend that the country might be made up of dozens of tribes but it was still one nation, a garden with flowers of assorted shapes and colors and fragrances, in unison forming an exquisite beauty. Few listened—unity seemed too vulgar a notion.

Washington Post -Ron Charles
Growing up under a dictatorship in Cameroon, Mbue knows the despair that germinates in the contaminated soil of these industrial crimes. Her novel follows out the endless cycles of acquiescence and resistance, exposure and neglect, litigation and corruption that grind down exploited people…. In any practical sense, the village that Thula and her friends are trying to save is already gone. From the first line, we know what awaits Kosawa. But the fatalism of this story is countered by the beauty of Mbue’s prose and the purity of her vision. “We hoped,” the children say, “that we would die where we were born.” As long as there are novels this powerful, the fight’s not over. ( )
  novelcommentary | Jan 18, 2023 |
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"'We should have known the end was near.' So begins Imbolo Mbue's exquisite and devastating novel How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by a large and powerful American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean up and financial reparations to the villagers are made--and ignored. The country's government, led by a corrupt, brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight the American corporation. Doing so will come at a steep price. Told through multiple perspectives and centered around a fierce young girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, Joy of the Oppressed is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghosts of colonialism, comes up against one village's quest for justice--and a young woman's willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people's freedom"--

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