Summary and book reviews of The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele

The King's Rifle

A Novel

by Biyi Bandele

The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele X
The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Taut and immediate, at once somber and exhilarating, The King's Rifle is the first novel to depict the experiences of black African soldiers fighting in Asia in the Second World War.

First published in the UK as Burma Boy.

It's winter 1944 and the second World War is entering its most crucial state. A few months ago Ali Banana was a blacksmith's apprentice in his rural hometown in West Africa; now he's behind enemy lines, trekking through the Burmese jungle. He is fourteen years old. Led by the unforgettably charismatic Sergeant Damisa, the unit has been given orders to go behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. But Japanese snipers lurk behind every tree - and if they manage to escape the Japanese, infection and disease lie in waiting. As torrential rains turn the landscape into a muddy death trap, the losses mount up. Homesick and weary, the men of D-Section Thunder Brigade refuse to give up.

Taut and immediate, at once somber and exhilarating, The King's Rifle is the first novel to depict the experiences of black African soldiers in the Second World War. This is a story of real life battles, of the men who made the legend of the Chindits, the unconventional, quick strike division of the British Army in India. Horrific and always brilliantly executed, this vividly realized account details the madness, the sacrifice and the dark humor of that wars most vicious battleground. It is also the moving story of a boy trying to live long enough to become a man.

First published in the UK as Burma Boy.

PROLOGUE: CAIRO

1

Two years into the war, on a day so hot and stifling the usually bustling thoroughfares of Cairo were all but deserted, a spare, dishevelled looking Englishman with a stooping gait staggered through the city's dark alleyways and bazaars, jostling with horses, camels, bicycles, mopeds, pushcarts, pedestrians and cars, looking, he said, for a chemist. To every hawker he approached and tried to speak to, on narrow, congested streets wafting with the odour of ginger, cumin, sandalwood and mint; and at every shisha-pipe-smoke-filled coffee house he wandered into, it seemed, as he struggled to speak but seemed only to slur, that he was looking for something which existed only in his fever-sapped imagination; that much was clear, that this strange man, dressed in a British army uniform that hung loosely on his shrunken frame, and wearing a major's rank, was in the grips of a fierce and crippling fever. He shivered under the blistering heat, his teeth ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Overall, The King's Rifle is an exceptional work that gains depth as it progresses toward its compelling and unforgettable dénouement. Bandele's writing style may not appeal to all readers, but those interested in the story of this mostly unheralded band of soldiers will want to put The King's Rifle high on their lists.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (707 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The New Statesman - Dinaw Mengestu
While, as a writer, I know better than to believe narrative alone can change the way our nations respond to each other, I do believe, however irrationally, that it's harder to say that our lives are "hell" and that our conflicts are unavoidable when the truth is sitting right in front of you.

The Financial Times - Jonathan Gibbs
As war novels go, it's a departure from the norm, leavening the gruesome depictions of combat with jokes, proverbs and stories from the lives the soldiers left behind.

The Times - David Grylls
Although racial tension is only lightly touched on, the author’s sharp awareness of ethnic identity is what makes the book original and moving. Highlighting the heroism and absurdity of war, it also illuminates a forgotten byway of African experience.

The Guardian - Giles Foden
It would spoil the ending of this short, powerful book (rarely does one wish a novel longer) to say what happens. ... Burma Boy is all the stronger for keeping its presentation of racial politics implicit rather than explicit.

The Guardian - Robert Collins
The absurdity of war has been done before, of course, but what's invigorating about Bandele's novel is his fine detail, and the fresh perspective of the Africans who took part.

The Independent - Tony Gould
[A] taut, tense and utterly riveting tale of comrades-in-arms undergoing conditions of such adversity as to defy belief.

Publishers Weekly
Bandele favors a straight-ahead style fueled by imagery and wordplay, and his perspective on heavily traveled literary territory is refreshing and even endearing.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A revelation of unsung heroism, distinguished by love of language and lightness of touch.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Chindits

Major General Orde Charles Wingate was a controversial figure in the British military during WWII. He was abrasive and opinionated, with ideas about warfare that struck those around him as either idiotic or sheer genius. Many of his superiors were impressed by him; others thought him a madman.

Wingate was born in India in 1903. He gained a commission in the Royal Artillery in 1922, beginning a lifelong career in the military. During the years that followed he served in the Sudan and later in Palestine. In 1940-41 he formed a commando unit, "Gideon's Force," which operated on the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, where it was very successful against the Italian Army. He was sent to Burma in 1942 to form a force to ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The King's Rifle, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Feast Your Eyes
    Feast Your Eyes
    by Myla Goldberg
    Myla Goldberg's latest novel, Feast Your Eyes, is ostensibly about the works of fictional ...
  • Book Jacket: Greek to Me
    Greek to Me
    by Mary Norris
    Mary Norris' Greek to Me received an overwhelmingly favorable response from our First Impression ...
  • Book Jacket: Miracle Creek
    Miracle Creek
    by Angie Kim
    Miracle Creek, the debut novel from Angie Kim, hinges on the mysterious explosion of an oxygen tank....
  • Book Jacket: Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard
    19 out of 21 of our First Impression Reviewers rated Louis Bayard's latest novel, Courting Mr. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Women Rowing North
    by Mary Pipher

    The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of Reviving Ophelia.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Her Kind of Case
by Jeanne Winer

A highly-recommended emotion-filled legal drama with three starred reviews!

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.