Review: Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo (2022)


Glory is an energy burst, an exhilarating joyride. It is the story of an uprising, told by a bold, vivid chorus of animal voices that helps us see our human world more clearly.

A long time ago, in a bountiful land not so far away, the animal denizens lived quite happily. Then the colonisers arrived. After nearly a hundred years, a bloody War of Liberation brought new hope for the animals – along with a new leader. A charismatic horse who commanded the sun and ruled and ruled and kept on ruling. For forty years he ruled, with the help of his elite band of Chosen Ones, a scandalously violent pack of Defenders and, as he aged, his beloved and ambitious young donkey wife, Marvellous.

But even the sticks and stones know there is no night ever so long it does not end with dawn. And so it did for the Old Horse, one day as he sat down to his Earl Grey tea and favourite radio programme. A new regime, a new leader. Or apparently so. And once again, the animals were full of hope…

Glory tells the story of a country seemingly trapped in a cycle as old as time. And yet, as it unveils the myriad tricks required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, it reminds us that the glory of tyranny only lasts as long as its victims are willing to let it. History can be stopped in a moment. With the return of a long-lost daughter, a #freefairncredibleelection, a turning tide – even a single bullet.


Many thanks to FMcM Associates for sending me a copy of Glory to review as part of their promotion of the Rathbones Folio Prize shortlist. Apologies that it has taken me so long to read and review – this book was worth the wait, though!

I don’t know where to start with reviewing this book, except to say that it is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. It pulls you along with the force of its prose and the strength of its premise – as one critic says, “Bulawayo is really out-Orwelling Orwell.” I thought Animal Farm was a brilliant, clever book – but Glory is astounding.

This book grabs you and doesn’t loosen its grip until after the last page. The allegorical mode is much rawer here than in Orwell’s work; it’s easier to forget that the characters are ostensibly farm animals, because the emotions and scenarios feel so terribly human. There are obviously clear parallels between Jidada (with a -da and another -da) and Bulawayo’s own Zimbabwe, but it reaches further than that – the pattern of colonialism and liberation and repression and torture and corruption has been repeated again and again across the globe, and here the author writes those themes large, in fierce, bold, surging prose.

The opening chapters are a masterclass in political rhetoric, the call-and-response, the assigning of blame to anyone and everyone except for the ruling party, the machinations at play within the seat of power. It’s scarily mesmerising, and it sweeps the reader along with the crowd of animals. And then, as the book progresses, we have the pendulum-swinging movement between hope and disillusionment, as a new era brings more of the same pain. The collective suffering of the animals of Jidada at the hands of the corrupt government is described in increasingly eviscerating terms, with repetition and stylistic experiments driving it home.

But what makes this book even more special is the individual narrative that comes to the fore in the second half of the novel. When Destiny returns home from exile, the intensity of the novel moves up a notch, and through her reconciliation with her mother and her neighbours, we get a reckoning with the past which reverberates into the present. The story is brutal and violent and bloody, yet in amongst it there is Destiny, and her mother, Simiso, sharing such intimate moments, there is a sliver of hope, there is the hint that the tide can yet turn.

I cant remember reading a book which held in in its thrall as strongly as Glory. The scope of its subject matter, its linguistic acrobatics, its ability to flick from humour to tragedy, its blending of allegory and specifics; there just isn’t another book like this, certainly not that I’ve read. It seems to vibrate with truth and history, with a raw honesty that exposes the horror of the systems that grind down the many while benefitting the few, with an entirely justified rage that powers the story forward like a tidal wave. It left me reeling, and I know I’ll come back to this book. I’m very grateful to have had the chance to read it.

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo is published by Chatto & Windus and is available to purchase here.

The Rathbones Folio Prize winners and shortlisted books can be viewed and purchased here.


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