BOOK REVIEW: ‘Radiance of Tomorrow’ by Ishmael Beah
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n the author’s note of ‘Radiance of Tomorrow’, Ishamel Beah, explains that his writing had been profoundly shaped and influenced by African oral story telling traditions. The expectations aroused by this promising prelude to the story, were more than met, as I was taken on a lyrical,  hopeful but also painful journey through post-war Sierra Leone.

The Blurb:

At the center of Radiance of Tomorrow are Benjamin and Bockarie, two longtime friends who return to their hometown, Imperi, after the civil war. The village is in ruins, the ground covered in bones. As more villagers begin to come back, Benjamin and Bockarie try to forge a new community by taking up their former posts as teachers, but they’re beset by obstacles: a scarcity of food; a rash of murders, thievery, rape, and retaliation; and the depredations of a foreign mining company intent on sullying the town’s water supply and blocking its paths with electric wires. As Benjamin and Bockarie search for a way to restore order, they’re forced to reckon with the uncertainty of their past and future alike.

With the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable, Radiance of Tomorrow is a powerful novel about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times.

Literandra Review:

‘Radiance of Tomorrow’ is one of those books that will leave its readers with a long-lasting impression.

I read ‘Radiance of Tomorrow’ after having read the author’s memoir, and I think that made the reading of the novel more intense. Because I was privy to some parts of Ishmael’s story, I felt like I knew what these characters had gone through during the war in Sierra Leone, even though the story itself starts afterwards. At times, I was so immersed in the story that I started confusing fictional characters with the real life ones I had encountered in the author’s memoir.

With ‘Radiance of Tomorrow’, I had an experience that was, at once, deeply moving and visceral – one that I’ve only ever had with two or three other books.

‘Radiance of Tomorrow’ is evocative and touching; it is written by someone who knows Sierra Leonean (and by extension, West African) society intimately and personally. The details were unmistakably original and the author devoted little to no effort pandering to the Western gaze. This, coupled with a plot that could very well have been a fictionalised narrative of real events, made my reading experience an absolute pleasure.

With ‘Radiance of Tomorrow’, I had an experience that was, at once, deeply moving and visceral – one that I’ve only ever had with two or three other books.

The stories of post-war Sierra Leone and its inhabitants, as told in ‘Radiance of Tomorrow’, show that it is never just ‘one thing’ when it comes to history and the changes that come as a consequence of it. It’s never ‘just’ the poison in the water that destroys the fish and livelihoods of villages. It’s never just the foreign workers disrespecting the village elders. It’s much more insidious than that. Much more underlying than that. It’s the government officials who work as extensions of multinational corporations because failure to do so could result in dire consequences. It’s the live wires that char the children in the dark because the light is only for the workers of the foreign company. It’s the desperate need for jobs and income that forces Africans to turn on their village and side with the foreign imposers. It’s that, and more and still, there’s more.

This novel tactfully displays the absurdity of life in some young African nations. It exposes the injustices, the corruption, and the complicity. But it also depicts the unrelenting, unwavering faith in a better, more radiant tomorrow in the novel’s characters, and in Africans themselves.

‘Radiance of Tomorrow’ is a social, political, and historical manifesto in the guise of a poetic and memorable prose narrative.