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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Voice of a Dream

Glaydah Namukasa

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To purchase Voice of a Dream

Title: Voice of a Dream
Author: Glaydah Namukasa
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006
Length: 96 pages
Availability: Voice of a Dream - US
Voice of a Dream - UK
Voice of a Dream - Canada
  • Senior Award winner in the Macmillan Writer's Prize for Africa, 2006

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Our Assessment:

B : short and a bit simplistic, but engaging and not overly didactic

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Voice of a Dream centres around sixteen-year-old Nanfuka, "the only girl in the village studying at a boarding school in town". The short novel begins with her at a critical point: her boyfriend, Sendi, who comes from a considerably wealthier home, has brought her to a hotel room, eager to "seal" their relationship. They go to the room, but Nanfuka can't go through with it.
       Soon enough Nanfuka has enough else to deal with anyway. Her father is very ill from AIDS, and her mother has apparently abandoned the family, for reasons that aren't clear to Nanfuka. Nanfuka has to leave school and return home to take care of her father and look after her younger siblings -- including the possibly AIDS-infected baby, Anna -- and when her father dies she has to take over all responsibility for the family. It seems to shatter her dream of getting an education, or ever becoming a nurse, as she had hoped to.
       The only relative that could help them is Aunt Naka, but she's a mean old bat with her own agenda. She tries to push Nanfuka into marriage, arguing that that's the only solution for their situation, and also has her eyes on the land where Nanfuka lives.
       One figure who encourages Nanfuka is the school nurse, Nurse Kina, who has always been: "a sister, friend, and a mentor". Nurse Kina is religious, but Namukasa realistically has Nanfuka not readily follow entirely in that devotion, as, for example, Nurse Kina gives her a Bible -- "The master bore of all books ever written" -- but Nanfuka, while wanting to please, barely finds the time to crack open the good book.
       Despite being so short, the novel moves swiftly and packs a lot in. There are Aunt Naka's various nefarious plots to watch out for, the family to take care of (including a difficult decision of how to take care of the sick baby), dreams to hold onto (as Nurse Kina encourages Nanfuka never to give up hope or lose her ambition), and that romance between her and Sendi, with several chapters focussing on Sendi who for quite a while doesn't know exactly what has happened to Nanfuka or how he should act.
       If anything, it's all a bit much, especially in the quick resolutions (and quite a bit does get resolved), and much of the story (including the aunt's evil doings) could readily have been drawn-out more. But Namukasa does present the many dilemmas and plot-twists effectively, and even if in the resolutions things are too quickly and occasionally too conveniently tied up (as with Nanfuka finding someone to sponsor her education) she doesn't over-simplify many of the fundamental issues. The difficulty of getting by and family life when the family consists only of children is particularly well conveyed, and what moral lessons there are -- from the consequences of sex to the importance of education -- aren't hammered home too obviously. Occasionally Namukasa over-reaches -- there's an election that will determine whether free primary education will be made available to all, and while an interesting point she doesn't integrate that as well as she could have into the ongoing story -- but Voice of a Dream does offer a broad glimpse of country-life in Uganda, with an engaging mount of variety to the story and characters.

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Other books by Glaydah Namukasa under review: Glaydah Namukasa: Other books of interest under review:
  • Index of books relating to Africa under review

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About the Author:

       Ugandan author Glaydah Namukasa also works as a midwife.

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