Review: When the Plums Are Ripe

by Patrice Naganang, Translated from the French by Amy B. Reid (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019)

When the Plums Are Ripe by Patrice Nganang (translated from the French by Amy B. Reid) takes place in 1940s Cameroon, then one of France's colonies in West-Central Africa. This is Nganang's second novel in an anticipated trilogy, and a significant addition to the canon of modern African fiction. In lyrical prose, the Cameroon-born author, who also is a poet and essayist, draws upon the rich oral traditions of African storytelling and bears clear witness to historical fact.

The novel's wry omniscient narrator pays close attention to a vibrant cast of characters in Cameroon as they find themselves caught between warring factions of French colonial forces after Germany invades France in 1940. The story begins shortly after the invasion when poet Pouka returns to his ancestral village, Edéa. He has been working for the brutal French colonial administration in the capital, Yaoundé, but city life has become too chaotic for him since war started in Europe. Upon Pouka's return to Edéa, readers are introduced to a large cast of unforgettable personalities. Full review on BookBrowse.

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Karen Lewis