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We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan


We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan
UK Publication Date: 21st Jan 2021
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

One word review – Educational

This ARC was provided by Merky Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads:You can’t stop birds from flying, can you, Sameer? They go where they will…’

1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.

Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew.

Moving between two continents and several generations over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is a multi-layered, moving and immensely resonant novel of love, loss, and what it means to find home.

My thoughts: I seem to be in the minority here. While I liked this book I didn’t love it unlike most reviewers.

My problem was with the 1960s in Uganda narrative. The author chose to tell this section in a series of letters from Hasan to his dead wife which to be honest just felt forced to me especially when the story requires him to relate events that they had shared. When the narratives begin to merge the letter format makes sense but it still feels stilted.

What this book did well was to highlight a historical event I knew nothing about and that was the expulsion of the Asian community from Uganda by Amin. It was unsettling seeing how the two communities turned against each other and wondering how far things would go against the Asians.

Racism, cultural differences and the importance of family are also explored in both narratives and make for interesting comparisons.

Through the eyes of Sameer Uganda is bought vividly and colourfully to life and I really enjoyed the sections where he explores the market with all its colours and beauty.

Overall for me this really was a book of two halves and while I appreciate what the author was trying to do with the letters the format just didn’t work for me.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about recent Ugandan history.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. It’s a pity the book was let down by the narrative choice, I had a similar issue with Ocean Vuong’s highly rated On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, narrated as a letter to his mother. I found it hard to set that disbelief aside and it coloured my reception of the book.


    January 24, 2021

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