A Wreath For Udomo, Peter Abrahams, Alfred A Knopf, 1956
This is the South African Peter Abrahams. There is also an American Peter Abrahams who writes mystery thrillers and young adult mystery novels. Back when I used to read by the alphabet system, trying to read my way through the entire fiction section at the library, I came across both authors and was quite confused for a while because they are not at all similar. The South African Peter Abrahams wrote about racism, colonialism, and independence in African nations. He was responsible, in my reading life, for introducing me to this subject long before I was even aware of books like Cry, The Beloved Country by Paton or the early works of Doris Lessing, etc. In fact, until recently he was one of the only Black African novelists to have his works published in English.
I read A Wreath For Udomo way back in 1991. In those days, I had already started writing notes about the books I read but they were usually brief in the extreme. Here is what I had to say about the book:
Excellent book. Udomo is a liberator of an African country, educated in England. He is competent, intelligent, and a true leader. He has faults also and feels he must hurt others, including close friends, in a just cause. In the end he is killed but has achieved enough to ensure his goal for his country will come to pass.
Now I have also read the 1956 bestseller, The Tribe That Lost Its Head by Nicholas Monsarrat. So there in the same year are two contrasting looks at an African country reaching for freedom from colonial masters: one from the colonialists point of view and one from the native African. The rising up of Africans was a new development in the 1950s and shows up fairly often in the fiction of the decade. For me these novels fill in my woeful gaps in world history.
(A Wreath for Udomo is out of print. I found it in my local library. The cover shown above is a 1977 reprint from Faber and Faber, only available through used book sellers.)