Apr 1, 2011

First Love’s Embrace by Mwangala Akapelwa - A Review

February 2011, Romance
iUniverse, $15.95, 216 pages, I
SBN: 9781450285223
Available on Amazon.com and iUniverse.com

First Love’s Embrace by Mwangala Akapelwa was recommended to me by a friend based in Zambia who knows about my little reading endeavour. Thank you, Luciano!
This is Akapelwa’s first novel, and was just published in February 2011. From the title you can easily infer that this is a love story but gladly it’s not mushy. Liseli Mwenda meets Banda Zulu during one her school holidays in Livingstone. There is instant attraction between the two, and Banda actively courts her with permission from her aunt and uncle, with whom she’s staying.
As their relationship progresses Banda is committed to marrying Liseli, and requests his family’s blessings and presence when he asks for Liseli’s hand in marriage. His plans are thwarted when Liseli’s family impugns his character and denies his request. Heartbroken and humiliated, Banda retreats and in doing so hurts Liseli who is unaware of all the details of the marriage negotiations and feels abandoned by him. Banda later leaves for his studies abroad without contacting Liseli, and this further entrenches the hurt.  
Years go by and each of them realise their educational and work goals. Liseli also leaves the country for her post-graduate studies and slowly regains her confidence in newfound relationships. However, the spectre of her ill-fated relationship with Banda remains a barrier to her future happiness. The remainder of the book uncovers the details of how both come to terms with the past and let go of the pain.
Overall, this was a good read and I enjoyed it. It moved at a relatively fast clip and the details were easy to follow. What I really liked was Akapelwa's writing style - it's fluid and very descriptive. I could picture the different scenarios she was describing, and that's the best kind of reading in my opinion.
One of the things that didn't work for me was how quickly the characters fell in love. It seemed a little too easy and thus made it a tad unbelievable, but the author made up for it by the progression of the relationships. She showed how trust was built during the courting phase and thereafter.
Another thing that made me pause was the description on the back of the book, it states “…. as he (Banda) meets with Liseli’s family, he feels hopeful, even though their families come from two different tribes.” I don’t remember reading much about the tribal tensions between the two characters, and so I felt a little cheated and relieved at the same time. I felt cheated because it would have added a level of complexity to the story, if handled correctly by the writer, and relieved because tribal differences often get too much our attention and just act as unnecessary speed bumps to living life.  
I felt more sympathetic towards Liseli’s character probably because much was written from her perspective and Banda often looked like a weak fool. I likely would have felt differently if there was more insight into his thoughts and feelings. With that said, the ending was fitting and tied everything off quite nicely.
I would say give this book a try if you’re looking a quick and easy read.


Nice story, reminds me a bit of A Love Rekindled. Is the book on Amazon?

Yes, it is on Amazon. I forgot to add that in the post. Will rectify that now.

Sounds like an (African) Mills & Boone romance novel. Maybe some entrepreneurs/publishers could set something up along those lines. Teenage African girls just love that s**t!

Thanks James. If memory serves me correctly there are a handful of publishers in South Africa who specialise in "Mills & Boon" type books with an African flavour; one of which is Nollybooks.

With that said this book by Mwangala Akapelwa wouldn't fall into that category. While it's a light read, it has more depth than what you find in what those "bodice rippers." It's not a meaningless plot that centres around multiple couplings and a great misunderstanding between the main characters.

Lol. It's a long time since I heard the term, 'bodice ripper'. As a one-time avid Mills'n'Boon reader, I am still amazed at the hold they have on young girls. I had a conversation with a young woman who has started a magazine for girls. She told me they will be selling it in Bookworld to take advantage of the number of girls who go into that store to buy MBs. I was surprised that there is even a marketing trend for this

Masuka, please tell me more about the new magazine for girls. It's a wonderful target market if you have the right product. Do you remember how impressionable we were at that age when we consumed M&B books like they were going out of circulation?

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