Cover Image: The First Woman

The First Woman

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book was fascinating, there was a wealth of knowledge about Uganda and Ugandan mythology which was such a refreshing read for me as this is a topic where my knowledge is lacking. 
This novel follower the protagonist Kirabo on her journey through life. They way the author wrote relationships was impeccable, the complex families were a little hard to follow however it was worth it once I got it straight in my head. 
This book was a great coming of age novel and it had so much depth many layers to it. 
I would definatley recommend it to others looking for something different than your typical summer blockbuster novel.
Was this review helpful?
This was a fantastic book - set in Uganda in the 1970s, an era and place of which I know very little, we see the protagonist, Kirabo, grow up amongst her extended family. She is being brought up by her grandparents, landowners in the town, as her mother left when she was born. This fascinating novel follows her growing up, the relationships with her friends and family, and her navigation of a patriarchal society. 

With the backdrop of Idi Amin's rule, and powerful men disappearing around her, we follow her as she moves into her father's house in the city, and an upmarket boarding school. The relationships were incredibly well described, and the constraints around women were palpable. 

There is a thread running through the book about the power of women, and links to Ugandan mythology, but I found it to be a really grounded and earthy novel, with so much everyday detail. There are complicated family networks that I did need to use the provided cast of characters to follow, but it was so satisfying when the story moved back in time and we found out the effects of their past actions on Kirabo's life. 

This stunning book is a classic of coming of age feminism. I will be reading the author's first novel and seeking out more Ugandan fiction.
Was this review helpful?
What a ride! I feel naked while reading Makumbi—because there is so much history, and cultural nuances packed into her novels. She makes me aware of how little I know. Makumbi does not dumb it down. Quoting her own words “I don’t write for a Western audience. If I can understand Shakespeare, you can understand me.”

In The First Woman, you will be enamoured by the Ugandan folktales with witches, men and betrayal, or sympathize with the coming of age narrative, or find yourself plunged into patriarchy, colonialism, spread of religion and power dynamics. The First Woman is indefinitely layered and Makumbi leaves it to the reader to find the depth they are looking for. I loved the women in the book, be it the motherless teenager Kirabo (finding and losing love, searching for her mother, trying to understand herself) or the grandmothers who have a long history between them or the wife who is unwelcoming of her husband’s illegitimate child. On a sly sarcastic note, if you are one of those people who equate Africa to a dot on the map instead of the many countries and cultures that make it, or read one hyped book by a black author and tweet ‘I read diverse books’, then let Makumbi cure you.
Was this review helpful?
The First Woman is a wonderfully eye-opening read, that conveys a deeply personal story of one extraordinary woman's upbringing. Her battle to find herself is courageous, and inspiring.
Was this review helpful?
Set in Ugandan mythology, The First Woman is very much a coming of age novel.  It can be read as a companion novel to Kintu, Makumbi’s first novel.  Kirabo is a young teenager who is being raised by her grandparents in a rural village following her Mothers departure when she was a baby.    As she grows older, she looks for explanations as to why her Mother left and searches for her role and direction in life.  This is very much a coming of age book as Kirabo becomes a young woman.  Set in Uganda during Idi Amin’s brutal regime, this particularly torrid period of Ugandan history is always in the background.   

I had not read any of Makumbi’s prior work before, so this novel was very much outside of my reading comfort zone.  Not being a fan of the magic realism genre, I struggled to finish this to be honest.  

Thank you to @netgalley and @oneworldpublications for this free e-book in return for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A sincere thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley for providing me with an ebook copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

This is not my usual genre, I’m more into crime/thriller books and even psychological thrillers too so I  am extremely pleased and grateful to them for opening up my mind to something totally different.
Was this review helpful?
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s The First Woman is a beautiful tale of a girl – Kirabo – growing up in Uganda in the 1970s. 
From the beginning, Kirabo reels you in with her warmth, fondness for storytelling, and curiosity. What follows is a coming-of-age story which deftly weaves in the impact of Amin’s regime, a search for a mother, and an exploration of what it is to be a woman.
I adored this novel – its vivid depictions of rural vs. urban life, its warmth and humour, its political mixed with the personal. 
Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
I read Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu a while ago with the Read Around the World Bookclub and really liked it. The author is from Uganda but now lives in Manchester but both Kintu and her new novel First Woman are set in Uganda. First Woman is essentially a coming of age story, but it is also way more than that. The story starts in 1975, during Amin’s regime and we follow Kirabou’s journey from teenager into womanhood. Amin’s presence and the violence of those years are woven in the background, but the foreground is all about Kirabou: her longing for her birth mother, her sexual awakening, her place in the world. As with Kintu, Ugandan myth plays a huge part in this novel and I would say that even though you don’t need any knowledge of it to enjoy the novel, reading up about it would give you a deeper understanding. A truly feminist novel with some wonderful women characters and relationships. The book was set for a June release and only after reading it, did I realise that it has been pushed to October, I keep forgetting to check the change in dates due to the pandemic.
Was this review helpful?
‘The First Woman’ by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is the second novel from the award winning author. The novel tells the story of young Kirabo, who is being raised by her grandparents in rural Uganda. Kirabo is surrounded by adoring adults and has plenty of attention but she is lacking is the one thing that she wants most of all – the knowledge of her mother. In order to learn the truth about her mother, Kirabu seeks out the help of a woman considered as a witch and from her she learns the mythology of her people. A mythology that teaches her about the feminist side to the Ugandan stories.  At it’s heart, ‘The First Woman’ is a feminist interpretation of these old Ugandan origin tales. An usual and beautiful story. Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC and opportunity to read this book.
Was this review helpful?