Friday, 11 May 2018

#Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Jane Bwye

My Friday series continues...

where guest authors are invited to share a post with us about the historical background to their writing.

Today, I'm delighted to welcome back Jane Bwye who has been a very good author friend for more than five years, since we have the same publisher in Crooked Cat Books.  

Jane Bwye
Though my series image is of a snowy Dunkeld Cathedral, Jane is about to transport us to a different part of the world, one where she uses her personal experience of living there to write her excellent novels. Ditch the fleecy jackets for now, because Jane is about to transport us to a lovely sunny place. 

Welcome again Jane, and please tell us about the historical background to your novels...

Thank you, Nancy, for asking me back to talk about a subject dear to my heart – the historical background to my first novel, Breath of Africa.
I lived in the East African country of Kenya for over half a century, and readers suspect the book is an autobiography. They are right to a certain extent, but I’ve let my imagination run riot in many places. That’s the joy of writing fiction.
The book covers a thirty-year period between 1952 and 1982. At the start of each of its four sections I have included a summary of political history, and there is a Glossary at the end, which provides translations as well as extra snippets of information, which would have spoiled the flow of the novel.
The story starts with two girls breaking out of school during a curfew at the time of the Mau Mau emergency. This triggers a drama of psychological terror fuelled by an oath administrator, Mwangi.
Courtesy of Jane Bwye

Ten years of tribal, racial and politic turbulence became the catalyst for Kenya’s swift transition to Independence. Nobody was ready for it.
There was a major exodus of settler farmers in the run up to Independence in 1963. The large Indian middle class huddled together in trepidation, feeling vulnerable to takeovers of their thriving businesses. The Africans rejoiced, but they quickly learned that governing their diverse citizens was more difficult than they could ever have imagined.
And there was the dim world of those of mixed race. Nobody wanted to acknowledge these unfortunate products of secret liaisons. They were shunned by Africans, Caucasians and Indians alike - swept under the carpet.
My book addresses this problem, weaving a love story which links the main characters: the daughter of a white settler, Caroline; the son of an African farm guard, Charles Ondiek, who defies prejudice and graduates from Oxford University; and Teresa, the result of a coupling between a “poor white” and an Indian coolie who had worked on building the railway.
Kenya’s railway had marked the beginning of colonialization in Kenya. The British believed they would have a head start in the scramble for Africa if they built a link between the coast and Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile. And it forms a backbone of the country to this day.
Menengai  Crater- Courtesy of Jane Bwye
Caroline takes her son on the night train from Nairobi to the coast. There is a romance about the gentle rocking motion as the wheels clack along the track and the occasional haunting whistle sounds in the night. In the dining car they eat from crockery marked EAR&H (East African Railways & Harbours), using silver service cutlery and they wipe their mouths with starched damask table napkins. When the train pulls into a station at dead of night, she hears the guard shout and sees him exchange the token key – a long stick with a basketlike top, much like a lacrosse racquet.
There is another side to Kenya’s history. The country has been mainly Christian since the missionaries first explored the interior in the 19th century.

My characters are Christians, but superstition clashes with their faith when they are targeted with Mwangi’s curses. And Charles’s family are especially torn, as they are the spiritual custodians of a secret ancestral cave in the desert, and Kenya is known as the cradle of mankind…

Jane - experiencing the desert
… which brings me to what many people have identified as the main character of Breath of Africa: it’s amazing scenery and ancient extinct volcanos; and its expansive deserts, which comprise two-thirds of the country.

I hope you will enjoy reading the book:

And its sequel, which brings the story of Kenya up to the present day:

Jane’s website:

A bit about Jane:
Jane has been an intermittent freelance journalist, a businesswoman and mentor for most of her life. She has written three novels, a cookbook, a 50-year history of her local church, and coming out this summer is a beginner’s guide to starting your own business, called “Going It Alone”. Her children and grandkids are scattered over three continents, so she developed a taste for travel, and in 2001 “walked” round the world, buying a bird book in every country she visited. Now “retired” in the UK, she gives talks, and indulges her love for playing bridge, judging dressage, and watching tennis.

Thank you for contributing to my series, today, Jane. It's alway a pleasure to read your wonderful novels, and I wish you the very best with all of your future writing related projects. 

Till the next 'Aye. Ken it wis like this' post, have a great week.


1 comment:

Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)