Year of Publication: 1960
After reading the 446 pages of a Zadie Smith’s novel On Beauty, I fell on this shorter length book for a balance; if I may say so. Houseboy is undoubtedly a shorter and a faster read. And I had to rely on what Punch said of the book: ‘Very funny and inexpressibly sad’.
If you like books that have major themes of colonialism, its effects and the relationship that exists between the colonizer and the colonized, then this book is for you. Probably, if you’ve enjoyed books like ‘The African Child‘ or say ‘Things Fall Apart‘ or even some of the earlier books written by Ngugi, I believe you would enjoy this too.
A striking feature about this book is that it is written in the form of a diary in exercise books. And this takes place through the eyes of the Houseboy named Toundi. Toundi flew home as he is about to be beaten by his father. He finds refuge at a European mission and this leads to his becoming a servant of Father Gilbert. Saddenly, Father Gilbert dies and Toundi becomes the Houseboy of the Commandant. Many incidences occurs there which would put Toundi in trouble. Of utmost interest to me is the change of Toundi’s name to Joseph whiles serving under these Europeans. But whiles there, Toundi learns how to read and write English.
There are many deductions to be made from the story:
One: Was it in the right direction that Toundi flew home and what must have caused a father to whip his child?
Two: Is the change of Toundi’s name an example of the influences that colonialism brings along?
Three: Could it be said that Toundi’s learning of English language is any advantage, at all, from colonialism?
Four: Put your self in the shoes of Toundi. A Houseboy serving under European. Would you have behaved in a similar way as Toundi?
Well, this book raises some salient points about colonialism and I would recommend it to anybody who loves a good story.