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.
Welcome again Jane, and please tell us about the historical background to your novels...
THE JOY OF WRITING FICTION IN A HISTORICAL SETTING
, for asking me back
to talk about a subject dear to my heart – the historical background to my
first novel, Breath of
I lived in the East African country of
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. Kenya
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 . Nobody was ready for it. Independence
There was a major exodus of settler farmers in the run up to
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. Independence
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.
|Menengai Crater- Courtesy of Jane Bwye|
Caroline takes her son on the night train from
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. Nairobi
There is another side to
’s history. The country has
been mainly Christian since the missionaries first explored the interior in the
19th century. Kenya
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
is known as the cradle of mankind… Kenya
|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.
Jane’s website: http://janebwye.com/
Her blog: https://jbwye.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Bwye/e/B00BOK0NN4/
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
she gives talks, and indulges her love for playing bridge, judging dressage,
and watching tennis. UK
Till the next 'Aye. Ken it wis like this' post, have a great week.