Measuring Time by Helon Habila - review by Lindy Burleigh

Lindy Burleigh

Parallel Lives

Measuring Time

By

Hamish Hamilton 383pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

The practice of abandoning twins at birth was one of the traditions in the Nigerian village of Keti which didn't survive the onslaught of colonialism and the arrival of the first missionary, Reverend Drinkwater, in 1918. Mamo, the protagonist of prize-winning author Helon Habila's ambitious second novel, is grateful for the destruction of this particular custom since he is a twin himself. As it is, his mother dies giving birth to him. Mamo, born with sickle-cell anaemia, is not expected to live beyond the age of twenty. His twin, LaMamo, is everything that the weak, introverted Mamo isn't: physically robust, bold and fearless. Neither twin, however, is cherished by their philandering father, and if it wasn't for their aunt Marina, an evangelical Christian with an endless repertoire of colourful stories, their childhood in the backwater of Keti would be loveless and dull.

The two boys grow up dreaming of escape from the stifling tedium of village life and hanker after fame and fortune. When their father's brother, Haruna, returns after many years from the Biafran war, a broken man but a hero, the twins determine to become soldiers too. LaMamo realises his

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