Uganda 1972.

A devastating decree is issued: all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days. They must take only what they can carry, give up their money and never return.

For Asha and Pran, married a matter of months, it means abandoning the family business that Pran has worked so hard to save. For his mother, Jaya, it means saying goodbye to the house that has been her home for decades. But violence is escalating in Kampala, and people are disappearing. Will they all make it to safety in Britain and will they be given refuge if they do?

And all the while, a terrible secret about the expulsion hangs over them, threatening to tear the family apart.

From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving debut Kololo Hill explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.

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Poignant. Shocking. Insightful. While steering through a dreadful decree that sets an alarm on a minority community in Uganda dictatorship, this debut comments on familial relationships, painful departures, and starting afresh amidst the emotional damage and baggage being carried across borders. Thank you to Picador Books for the opportunity to read this early!

Kololo Hill is a historical fiction featuring Ugandan Indians who traverse the horrors and hope of home. 

Following a military coup that established a dictator in 1972 Uganda, a forcible exclusion and expulsion of the Indian minority was declared and commenced amidst brutal curfews and strict night patrols. With people disappearing and bodies floating the Nile river, the violence evidently divided the population despite the united brutality of the military they all faced. Set against this backdrop, the stories of three fictional characters are played out through two sections: one set in Uganda during the few days before them being expelled, and the other playing out their new lives following the historical scar. 

An omniscient narration exposes the unfortunate mask of nationalism that often sidelines and ultimately nullifies the existence of minorities in the very same nation, through character-driven prose that also brings the history of British colonialism, economic disparity in the community, and what home really means to light. Pran, the dominant head of a family who is passionate and prideful of his family business, doesn’t believe in the soon-to-be-true rumours of this forced expulsion. His need to keep the family united often affects the peace of his family, ironically establishing him as an autocrat of this little world of his. 

Asha, his wife, is opinionated and assertive, doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the privilege they hold, and determined to create a better life in England after the nightmare she witnessed back in Uganda. Jaya, Pran’s mother, is the matriarchal head whose soft power chases to uphold the pride and dignity of her family while coping with the sudden loss of two men in her life—her husband who died from a fall after being threatened by soldiers and the houseboy, an unlikely companion, who disappeared without a word. Despite beginning her life in Uganda during her teen years after marriage and thereby being sentimentally connected to the land, Jaya shows strength and is determined to guide her family towards England to start anew. 

Vijay, the youngest, has always supported his elder brother, Pran, but the loss of home forces him to think more about himself and walk towards England with an optimistic perspective. Navigating a new path and the challenges that come with it, he depicts the continuous efforts made by refugees to reinvent their lives. These characters together paint the sensitivity of love, anger, and fear while horrors unravel and hope persists. They show the emotional differences and distinct viewpoints within a family as they reminisce about their lost country and begin to make another their home. 

my rating ↣ ★★★★★

Buy the book: Amazon US | Bookshop UK | Amazon IN


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