But unlike so many donnish generational novels, Kintu is an entertaining, engrossing, and, crucially, intimate read. It is an epic that doesn’t ignore character for scope. Rather, Kintu is a novel that thrives on its compassionate investigation of the individual within the boundaries of an epic, within the boundaries of a nation’s rapidly changing identity ... Makumbi, a natural storyteller, is skilful at subverting our expectations of characters, and each book is propelled by a teasing sense of mystery. The prose is smoky crisp, and the book’s setting, be it the barren landscape of o Lwera or the bustling market in Nakaseke Town, is vividly conjured. It is also, helpfully, a funny book ... Some sections of the novel are less engaging than others. Sintu’s story, while initially steeped in intrigue through the ghostly sister, never generates the same energy as the other characters. The book’s ending also feels mild. In comparison to the gruelling build-up, certain strands conclude far too squeakily clean. However, these are minor quibbles, and for a debut novelist to be able to tackle a country’s history with such an unflinching and confident gaze is, frankly, astonishing.
... a sweeping portrait of Ugandan history that begins with the fall of a powerful clan in the 18th century and follows the family’s line through the 21st. The novel, like Genesis, is an origin story ... Writing with the assurance and wry omniscience of an easygoing deity, Makumbi watches her protagonists live out invariably provisional answers ... when Kintu’s carnival of clans, royal courts, Kampala apartments and church groups concludes, it is hardly clearer what form “family” might take, or how individuals should reconcile themselves to kinship. There is, nevertheless, a beauty to how Makumbi’s characters improvise alternatives to what they do not have or cannot be.
Like Charles Dickens or Gabriel García Márquez, Makumbi ranges widely across time and social strata; her knowledge of Ugandan culture seems as precise as a historian’s ... With its progression through generations and its cyclical returns to genetic inheritance—hay fever, twins, madness—Kintu’s structure feels epic ... Kintu cannot but be in some sense the story of a people, the Ganda, and a nation, Uganda. But its politics are personal.