Weep Not, Child

ISBN: 0435908308
ISBN 13: 9780435908300
By: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

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About this book

Tells the moving story about the effects of the Mau Mau war on the lives of ordinary men and women in Kenya. In the forests, the Mau Mau are waging war against the white government, and two brothers, Kamau and Njoroge, and the rest of the family must decide where their loyalties lie.

Reader's Thoughts


This is probably the most poignant story I've read since Mila 18.The simplistic style in which the story is written (which I'm sure the modern reader will find boring) is largely due, I believe, to two factors; first, it is styled on the 19th century form of the novel and second, it was written when the author was 24yrs old- his first real foray into the world of writing prose. However these only add some level of authenticity to the tale as it is told from the perspective of a child.A tale worth reading.


Okay, here's my beef with Weep Not, Child: it's an interesting story set in a time of political strife that the uninformed masses (ex me) should learn more about, but the writing is not as compelling as the plot. Ngugi wa Thiong'o writes simply, which generally serves the story well, except for when he diverges into excessively contracted segments of blatant, explicit exposition. I found myself constantly marking long sections of text with "too fast - too told!" and "why are you explaining your symbols and so crudely?" I even came up with an abbreviation for the latter (wayeys, if you want to know) due to the number of times I had to use it. A long, unnatural conversation that was basically an excuse to dump information on the reader also stands out in my mind. Another problem I had was not with the book so much as the blurb on the back cover. My edition (African Writers Series) describes Weep Not, Child as revolving around "two small boys." Not true! Kamau, the other small boy mentioned besides the protagonist Njoroge, is barely mentioned and does not prove pivotal to the plot. I was surprised to find him essentially dropped from the text after the first few chapters. I also found the predictability of the characters annoying (or maybe I've just read too many books like this), and the white settlers are one-dimensional caricatures; I understand that from the third person limited viewpoint of the oppressed black, they surely must seem arbitrarily cruel, but could we not have had some more depth and perception in here? I found Howlands especially bothersome. At first he seemed to be a well-rounded character; attention is paid to his love of the land and seeming escape from England, for example, but ultimately he becomes a heavy-handed stereotype. Invested in "the settlers' way" (78), he wishes only to "reduce everything to his will" (78). A further fleshed character would have lent the book needed complexity.That said, there are some interesting themes raised in this text: masculinity, powerlessness, and cowardice (I'm still thinking over this one); progress, Progress, and ancestral ways; and of course, class and race.

Julia Glassman

It might have been the translation, but the tone of this novel felt flat and rushed. None of the characters had really distinguishable personalities, and the love story never really felt real to me. With that said, I know this is an early work, and I could see some really interesting themes emerging that perhaps he's elaborated on in his other books: the tension between religion/superstition and modern education, and the resistance among colonized peoples to defeatism and complacency. At some point I do want to pick up one of his later novels and see how it compares.


My review is based on this specific edition. This version of the book by MacMillan readers is meant for English language learners, so it is abridged and includes a note on the historical background, a character guide, illustrations, reading questions and a glossary separated by each book's thematic section (ex: first one is "light and darkness"). The thematic approach for the glossary serves two purposes: it helps identify Thiong'o's literary device for a higher-level read, and it helps encourage understanding of specific vocabulary at the highest/"upper" level of the readers series. A reader working in a class or independently can sense growth in literacy based on her/his understanding of these terms. Except for the illustrations, the set of extras are all useful additions; however, I felt that the abridged text did detract from the story. The reader sees moments of pain and conflict, courage and doubt--but often the action moves too quickly. I felt I did not know the characters well enough. Perhaps the extras could be paired with the original, unabridged text for use in schools.


Read as an undergrad... I remember that it was moving but I don't remember much of the plot.

Joel Simon

"Weep Not, Child," tells the story of a family torn apart by the start of the nationalist revolt against colonial rule in Kenya. It was the first English novel published by an East African and, consequently, is worth reading. It is the first novel by the author (written in 1964), who has recieved a number of honors and is currently a professor of literature at the University of California (Irvine). The story follows the lives of several brothers, and one in particular (Njoroge) who is the youngest and is given the opportunity to attend school (being the first in his family to do so). His father, a strong, traditional African man, is brought into the center of conflict when the people of his village are faced with deciding whether to challenge the white-dominated government by agreeing to a general strike, or to back down and live with the status quo. The book moves at a decent pace and has a few very exciting episodes. Several of the characters are well-developed, but others that I wished to know more about, were not. I picked this book up on a trip to South Africa, where I always find myself in a bookshop looking for books to give me different perspectives on Africa. I recommend this book to those who are interested in learning about Kenya's break with its colonial past through accessible literature.


This is a very reactionary postimperial piece of African literature. It really made me reconsider the effects that Western "humanitarian" efforts have on African culture. While it's a little disturbing, I think that it raises issues that are good to be aware of.

Dora Okeyo

Like most people faced with challenges-this book is all about them and how much dreams are blurred by brutality and how the only people who you think have lost it all still gain the strength to hope for another day.


Great story -- amazing that it took me so long to read it. I'm biased, but it's not as well told as Achebe's "Things Fall Apart".Which was written first? Not sure.Love confession scene between Miwihaki + Njorgoe was over the top, unrealistic for the culture.Most coinciding historical events related in this novel weren't clearly communicated/addressed.Big takeaway for me: I did not realize that native-born African writers were of mass like-mindness that Christianity goes hand-in-hand with colonization. That was certainly a theme I'm noticing more and more in these "post-colonial" novels.


In this short, sweet novel, African writer Ngugi Wa Thiong'o uses short, direct sentences throughout most of the text. It is clear and concise. I sometimes think I could use a bit more condensing in my own writing. This story makes heavy use of symbolism, as well. Two of the main symbols are the tree and the hill. The motif of light and darkness is also used frequently to make connections with good and evil.


This is quite affecting. The language is simple and occasionally the syntax is odd, but it achieves a sort of pastoral minimalism that in many cases heightens the severity of the events that are surrounding Njoroge & his family. There is also an interesting dynamic in terms of Njoroge being an almost passive observer to the uprising: His only true desire (while he is still optimistic) seems to be to return the land to his people, and that is his drive. He never seems to actively hate the white colonialists, but rather accepts that position because his Father or Brother tells him that it is the right position. He imagines his high school a Utopian environment where color & religion are irrelevant, and the fact that he doesn't hate white on principle sets him apart from the Mau Mau-- but the domineering colonialists, of course, cannot see this.This short novel is both frustrating and moving, depressing and true. The ending, I think, is perfect.


Romeo and Juliet, meet the Joads of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.Set in Kenya, this is the story of Njoroge, a young Kikuyu boy who befriends Mwihaki, a girl whose father hates Njoroge's father. The two fathers end up in opposing groups in the Mau Mau rebellion of 1951-1960, a period during which native Africans rose up against white colonists, but in factions rather than as a united front. A few years later when Njoroge, who has been allowed the privilege of an education, is in high school, he also meets and becomes friends with the son of the white District Officer given the responsibility to repress the Mau Mau rebellion. Ultimately, Njoroge's father and brothers and the fathers of his two friends destroy each other's families, also destroying Njoroge's hope for a better future.Published in 1964, Weep Not, Child was the first novel written in English to be published by an East African writer. While this was Thiong'o's first novel, he went on to write many more about his native country. He is now a professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine. I plan to read more of his beautiful writing.


I just finished reading this for the second time. I agree with some people below that the writing can be odd and simple. Its kind of a sketch more than a really fleshed out tale, I mean it is a short book. I think the odd language and simpleness of the book actually make the themes much more clear. Additionally its one of the first English books in African literature and Ngugi wrote it when he was young himself. I love how simply he addressed these complex topics, it feels youthful and fresh. I think that kind of adds voice to the young main character Njoroge. I also like how it mixes normal events/feelings of growing up including first loves and realizing your parents aren't invincible along with the story of growing up in a nation fraught with turmoil and revolution. Just my take. It does vilify white people and colonialism more than some other books in this genre but I actually like it better than Things Fall Apart. This is one of my favorite books in African literature. I also like the more negative views of colonization in this book.


I read this book as a child growing up in Liberia, West Africa. I remember loving the language and the rich culture that very similar to my own. I look forward to reading it again as an adult and growing a deeper appreciation for it.

Kemi looves 2 read

It's all coming back to me now - the authours I had to read for African literature - Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiongo etc. There is a South African authour that I can't remember for the life of me..........

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