Book Review: Manchester Happened by Jennifer Makumbi

This book and two others by this author have been on my TBR for as long as God knows when. I decided to start with this one because I thought it would be an easier way to be introduced to the author’s work since it is a collection of short stories.

The twelve stories in this collection tells different tales set in Manchester, U.K and Uganda. The major theme that runs through the entire book captures the experiences Ugandans in diaspora face both in the UK and back home in Uganda when they visit or return home. It explores racism, immigration problems, relationships, deceit and lots more.

I struggled with reading this book particularly because I didn’t connect with most of the characters and the stories. A few stories got my attention at the time I was reading them but they were easily forgettable because they lacked the punch I expected. In a nutshell, this book wasn’t for me at all but I hope to try out reading one of the author’s novels sometime in the new year and see if that one may click.

Rating: 3 Stars

Published: May 23rd 2019 by Oneworld Productions

Pages: 320

Genre: Short Stories

The Author:

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a Ugandan novelist and short story writer, has a PhD from Lancaster University. She is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and lives in Manchester with her husband Damian and son Jordan.

Her first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani Manuscript Prize in 2013 and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014. Her story Let’s Tell This Story Properly won the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She was longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature. In 2018 she was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize in the fiction category. In 2021, her novel The First Woman won the Jhalak Prize.

Makumbi’s writing is largely based on oral traditions. She realized that oral traditions were so broad and would be able to frame all her writing regardless of subject, form or genre. She has said she “noticed that using oral forms which were normally perceived as trite and ‘tired’ brought, ironically, a certain depth to a piece that I could not explain.”

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