Books: Coming of Age in Chaos

In a haunting debut novel, Moses Isegawa looks at his native Uganda through the eyes of a young boy

Any novel that begins with a man on the brink of being eaten by a crocodile stands a good chance of engaging a reader's attention. Moses Isegawa's Abyssinian Chronicles (Knopf; 462 pages; $26) not only opens with such a bang, or crunch, but also manages to sustain the narrative fireworks over a long, complex haul.

The novel is, ostensibly, the coming-of-age story of its narrator, Mugezi, who is born in a tiny Ugandan village in the early 1960s and who grows up to witness firsthand his country's plunge into chaos under the dictatorship of Idi Amin during the '70s. But Mugezi...

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