Page count: 184
The back says: In her fiction debut, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe with stops in the cities Kampala and Los Angeles, Tropical Fish depicts the reality of life for Christine Mugisha and her family after Idi Amin’s dictatorship.
Three of the eight chapters are told from the point of view of Christine’s two older sisters, Patti, a born-again Christian who finds herself starving at her boarding school, and Rosa, a free spirit who tries to “magically” seduce one of her teachers. But the star of Tropical Fish is Christine, whom we accompany from her first wobbly steps in high heels, to her encounters with the first-world conveniences and alienation of America, to her return home to Uganda.
As the Mugishas cope with Uganda’s collapsing infrastructure, they also contend with the universal themes of family cohesion, sex and relationships, disease, betrayal, and spirituality. Anyone dipping into Baingana’s incandescent, widely acclaimed novel will enjoy their immersion in the world of this talented newcomer.
I say: For some strange reason I expected more from this collection of short stories that it left me disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the stories, they merely failed to move me.
I found myself reading for the sake of reading without any particular interest in the characters or their fate, and I attribute much of this to the prose, which I found rather childlike and without sensation. In essence the stories should appeal to me - they are all interesting - but the execution hindered my enjoyment. The only time I felt anything was in Lost in Los Angeles when Christine was describing the way the Ugandans would meet up to talk about home.
Everything else in that story – and most of the others as well - felt contrived; like relatable clichés.
3/5 because it could have been better if I hadn’t expected more (that’s what I get for succumbing and reading the accolades on the cover).