The sun detonating
Sores growing on the prisoners like coral.
Buckets. Drills. Beatings. Boredom.”
The Mau Mau Uprising in Poetry
This verse narrative/poetry novella won the Costa Poetry Award in 2008. It is set in Kenya in the 1950′s and the story is told from the perspective of teenager Tom who has just finished at Public School. During the summer holidays he returns home to Africa and becomes embroiled in the bloody and brutal atrocities associated with the Mau Mau’s fight for independence.
The Broken Word is very powerful and compelling. I had to read it in one sitting I was so gripped by the story. I now need to go back and read it again more slowly. The poetic form really suits the intense narrative of the Mau Mau uprising and Tom’s teenage angst is magnified by the brutal events in which he participates. It resonates with a recent documentary I saw about Vera Brittain (by Jo Brand on BBC 4) whose Testament of Youth also considers how teenagers cope with the inhumanity of war.
What the reviewers said
David Wheatley’s review in the Guardian seems to criticise Foulds for considering only the colonial white man’s perspective: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/apr/12/featuresreviews.guardianreview
But the Costa judges on other hand say; “This heart-stopping story about the Mau Mau uprising brings hidden conflicts of conscience, race and class to the surface in a brutally compelling narrative.” and although the viewpoint is narrow the narrative does indeed do this. http://www.costabookawards.co.uk/awards/shortlist_detail.aspx?id=337
I loved the sharp images, intense action and clear distillation of conflict that Adam Foulds creates in this poem. It would be particularly good to recommend to History, Theology and English Literature students. 5 stars ***** from me!