At the beginning of this year, a young writer by the name of Churchill Osimbo rose from obscurity to write one of the finest novels this country has ever produced. Third-Rate is a literary thriller. Somehow fitting the cross-section of pulp-fiction and stylistic high-brow.
More of a novella than a novel, it’s a quick read rounded out by two hundred sweetly passing pages.
“Third-Rate” Book Review
The book centers around a twice-orphaned young man, very similar to what I imagine the author to be like, in Kenya, now firmly in the hands of a military general. It superimposes the current political turmoil found in francophile West African countries since 2020 and imagines what that would look like should it have happened in Kenya.
It doesn’t, however, dwell on the national politics of the situation. It seeks to be a personal story of this orphaned boy who doesn’t know what to do with himself, which compliments wonderfully the theme of a country that doesn’t exactly know what to do with itself.
Filled with drama, action, and sex, some may find it strange that it also has within it some kind of poetry. Some passages within the book are almost lyrical in nature. Though I would not call it a lyrical novel. After the first couple of chapters, the lyricism is lost and makes way for more and more sensationalism, and Churchill loses his pen in the very same murk. There’s something to be said for sensationalism, though, because the latter half of the novella I found to be the most exciting than the former.
Third-Rate is also divided into two distinct parts: one and two. The biggest difference between parts is that part one is written in the past tense, while part two is written in the present continuous. Through and through, the story is conveyed in the first person, but I am not too sure what the intended effect of the tense change between parts is meant to signify.
Overall, I found the book to be absolutely thrilling. I read it from front to back in two sittings—a veritable page-turner. You’d be surprised at how funny it is. Some turns of phrase elicited chuckles out of me in places and circumstances where I would not normally laugh. More importantly, I think this novel is more than just bare entertainment or an exercise in style. I think it’s an important view of the newer generations’ psyche regarding their place in the world and that of their country. I think it betrays a fundamental lack of patriotism that is no secret among the younger generations. These people want to and will leave Kenya the first chance they get.
Not only is Third-Rate entertaining, but it’s important. The title may be an aversion to the third-world country it is set in and the general attitude of the protagonist.
After reading the whole book, I’d rate it: 4/5
In case you’d like to have a copy, the book is available for purchase on Hustle Sasa
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