|Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A novel that speaks to us via the eclectic thoughts and differently experienced life of a boy growing up in the Congo. Funny, bitter-sweet, very touching and full of the child-like logic that would make the world a much better place if we were all that age again.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Serpent's Tail|
Michel is as carefree as any child can be during that difficult process called 'growing up'. Here in Congo Brazzaville he has his best friend Lounes, a crush on Caroline (his best friend's sister), the hassles of school and a family consisting of two mothers in two houses which seems perfectly normal. He's also being educated about the world by his father; a world that changes daily as it's 1979. Never mind, he can always marry Caroline as long as he meets her conditions: she requires children, a red 5-seater car and a white dog.
Alain Mabanckou is a prize winning author who, looking at the list of awards and nominations, should be more globally recognised than he is. The wit evident in his first novel African Psycho, an everyday tale of a would-be girl-friend murderer, surfaces again in Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty. The subject matter is different though which is just as well since Tomorrow is partly based on his Congo childhood.
Michel is a lad of his time, his culture and with his own ideas rather like an African Adrian Mole. He lives somewhere it's logical to seek magical intervention to kybosh a football match and where ghosts are sent on their way as part of a funeral, which seems a little different to us. However, to him these things just are. His concerns revolve around more important matters like watching planes fly overhead with Lounes, wooing the capricious Caroline or trying to look pleased when his Uncle gives him the same gift each birthday. (Uncle has his reasons but that doesn't help.)
His logic is full of wonderful non-sequiturs in the way that makes childhood a lot more enchanting to those who are observing than those who are living it. For instance, on hearing about Idi Amin's murders, Michel is surprised that Amin, though apparently a killer, can't read. Ok, his mother Pauline can't read either but she's never killed anyone. He also has a beautifully simple solution to the Palestine/Israeli conflict while also getting to grips with the French writer and philosopher Rimbaud. This is proof, should it be needed, that Alain can do eclectic while seasoning it with a huge dose of beguiling.
Reading Michel's words as adults give us a different perspective of course. We understand the extent of underlying the sadness of his step-father Roger and Maman Pauline. We also feel for Michel as he sees the pain while realising he's too young to be asked for help or opinion.
For me the author's originality and ability to mix moments of sad reflection with a child's joy to be alive in the moment make this book special and also made me put an order in for Alain's back catalogue, relieved and thrilled to know that there's more where this came from.
If this appeals duty and a cherished place in my heart dictate that I also recommend any Adrian Mole book. If you're not yet acquainted with him the beginning is a good place to start. If you would like to explore more African childhoods, Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron is also an excellent book although has a different feel about it.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou at Amazon.com.
Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou is in the Top Ten General Fiction Books of 2013.
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