The First Woman: A proudly Ugandan novel dense with mythology

Book review: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s novel rewards slow and close reading

The First Woman is the latest novel from Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

The First Woman is the latest novel from Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

How do you solve a problem like the Bildungsroman? Whereas some literary genres tend to fluctuate in popularity over time, rolling in and out of vogue like the waves, the coming-of-age story has stayed firmly buoyed – part blinding in its familiar orange glow, part covered in guano.

Apart from obvious cultural changes, it is a genre that remains largely untouched since it was in the hands of Frances Burney and Henry Fielding. Of course it’s the relatability that keeps us going back: we all came of age, so we implant ourselves upon the characters.

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