Kololo Hill by Neema Shah
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by Picador
A devastating decree is issued: all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days. They must take only what they can carry, give up their money and never return.
For Asha and Pran, married a matter of months, it means abandoning the family business that Pran has worked so hard to save. For his mother, Jaya, it means saying goodbye to the house that has been her home for decades. But violence is escalating in Kampala, and people are disappearing. Will they all make it to safety in Britain and will they be given refuge if they do?
And all the while, a terrible secret about the expulsion hangs over them, threatening to tear the family apart.
From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving debut Kololo Hill explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.
This was the first book I read in 2021 and I absolutely loved it. Told from the perspectives of three different characters – Asha, Jaya and Vijay – we get an insight into their family life as the unthinkable happens. Along with thousands of other Asian families, they are told by dictator Idi Amin to leave their homes in Uganda, leaving them with no choice but to flee to England.
Not only did the novel give me an insight into a period in recent history that I didn’t know very much about (and which I then went on to research further), there was also an excellent cast of characters behind it. The contrast between Uganda and England was well portrayed, and the ways in which the different characters reacted and adapted to changes in their lives were really interesting.
Asha was a particularly interesting character, as she adjusts to her completely new life in some unexpected ways.
And in addition to the fantastic story, the descriptions of the food were amazing! And the cover is pretty gorgeous too.
I whizzed through this book and was sad to finish it. I was also lucky enough to attend the virtual book launch with author Neema Shah and was delighted to hear she is busy working on her second novel – I for one can’t wait to read it.
Thank you to NetGalley for an advance review copy of this novel.
My rating: 10 out of 10