Saturday, 25 May 2019

Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Published in the UK by OneWorld Publications on the 23rd May 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A stunning new story collection from Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, acclaimed author of Kintu and winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014 and the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction 2018 

Manchester Happened is a masterful collection of short stories by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, whose debut novel Kintu was published to great acclaim earlier this year. Set in Manchester and Kampala, the stories form a moving and powerful work about the experience of immigration and about how we treat each other as human beings, and makes an important contribution to one of the most pressing societal and political issues of the day.

This collection of short stories includes the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2014 winner, Let's Tell This Story Properly. I loved how all the tales overlap by way of their country settings, and also in other more subtle ways such as shared specific locations and characters. It reminded me of From An-Other Land by Tanushree Ghosh and helped to reinforce the idea of the Ugandan diaspora being connected. Having the British parts of the stories take place in Manchester appealed to me because it makes a refreshing change to literarily explore British cities other than London!

I wasn't so keen on the shory about the two dogs, but otherwise I enjoyed reading Manchester Happened. Makumbi explores different aspects of Ugandan immigration to Britain from the 1950s until the present day. Through these insights into the characters' lives I was able to view British society from the other side of the lens, so to speak, sometimes in a positive way but unfortunately mostly in the negative. Careless comments and attitudes abound. That said, Manchester Happened didn't come across to me as an angry demand for change. In fact its title is taken from an almost-weary comment in one of the stories where a character sums up her experience with the phrase 'Manchester happened'.

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  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed it except for the story about the dogs.

  2. Sounds kind of eye-opening and well-written. Glad to hear it was good :-)

  3. Ooh, I have Kintu on my wishlist and really want to get into it. I am glad you enjoyed this short story collection, although it's interesting that you got a different tone from this one as it felt more like an exhausted recollection than an activist collection...