Book review: The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

Caidyn's review (1)

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After


TW: genocide, spousal abuse, and mentions of rape

I hate to say it, but I wasn’t impressed by this book. Yes, it’s important because it documents a little talked about event in history. I didn’t even know about it until high school when we watched the movie Hotel Rwanda.

When I saw that this was an option for Book of the Month a few months past, I decided to jump on it. Why not educate myself? Why not learn something that isn’t talked about and isn’t written about as much as other genocides?

But, I wasn’t impressed.

Wamariya has a lot to say, but I don’t think the book worked. The jumps between the war and after it just didn’t work for me. It was so abrupt and it was hard to keep things straight. I found myself wondering how it worked, how it linked up, and why I was reading it. I wasn’t compelled to finish it and I skimmed the last couple of chapters to see if something caught my attention.

The story failed to touch me, no matter how important it is.

Wamariya ran into the forest with her older sister, away from her family, one day when the soldiers came. It wasn’t until years later that she found out her parents and brother were even still alive, let alone that they had other children. She survived because of her sister’s sacrifices and ventures. She married to keep them safe from rape. She started a black market nearly everywhere they went to keep food on the table.

But the story all blended together. It was the same story over and over again. Yes, it’s Wamariya’s story and it’s, again, important to talk about the patriarchy, spousal abuse, and the aftermath of war, but I couldn’t find it interesting at all. It would be the first book I read in the morning just so I could get it over with.

Lots of other people loved this book if you look at reviews on Goodreads. But, for me? It just didn’t work. I couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t find myself wanting to read it. I finished it because I was hoping that it would get better. It felt incomplete and lacking the emotional hit I was looking for.

So, for me, it didn’t work. It was an average memoir and an average book overall. Just okay, as my rating indicates.

Talk to me!
Do you know any books about Rwanda that you would recommend?
What’s your favorite memoir?

One thought on “Book review: The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

  1. Pingback: July Wrap-up – BW Reviews

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