Extract Question – Richard and Kainene’s relationship

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How does Adichie present the relationship between Richard and Kainene in this extract?

Kainene greeted him with a stoic face in the morning.

The rain was heavy on the roof and the overcast sky cast a pallor over the dining room. Kainene sat drinking a cup of tea and reading a newspaper with the light on.

‘Harrison is making pancakes,’ she said, and turned back to her paper. Richard sat opposite her, unsure of what to do, too guilty even to pour his tea. Her silence and the noises and smells from the kitchen made him feel claustrophobic.

‘Kainene,’ he said. ‘Can we speak, please?’

She looked up, and he noticed, first, that her eyes were swollen and raw, and then he saw the wounded rage in them. ‘We will talk when I want to talk, Richard.’

He looked down, like a child being reprimanded, and felt, again, afraid that she would ask him to get out of her life forever.

The doorbell rang before noon and, when Ikejide came in to say the madam’s sister was at the door, Richard thought that Kainene would ask him to shut the door in Olanna’s face. But she didn’t. She asked Ikejide to serve drinks and went down to the living room and from the top of the stairs where he stood, Richard tried to hear what was said. He heard Olanna’s tearful voice but could not make out what she was saying. Odenigbo spoke briefly, in a tone that was unusually calm. Then Richard heard Kainene’s voice, clear and crisp. ‘It is stupid to expect me to forgive this.’

There was a short silence and then the sound of the door being opened. Richard hurried to the window to see Odenigbo’s car backing out, the same blue Opel that had parked in his own compound on Imoke Street before Odenigbo bounded out, a stocky man in well-ironed clothes shouting, ‘I want you to stay away from my house! Do you understand me? Stay away! Don’t ever come to my house again!’ He had stood in front of the veranda and wondered if Odenigbo would punch him. Later, he realised that Odenigbo did not intend to punch him, perhaps did not consider him worthy of a punch, and the thought had depressed him.

‘Did you eavesdrop?’ Kainene asked, walking into the room. Richard turned away from the window, but she didn’t wait for his response before she added, mildly, ‘I’d forgotten how much the revolutionary looks like a wrestler, really – but one with finesse.’

‘I will never forgive myself if I lose you, Kainene.’

Her face was expressionless. ‘I took your manuscript from the study this morning and I burnt it,’ she said.

Richard felt a soar in his chest of emotions he could not name. ‘The Basket of Hands’, the collection of pages that he was finally confident could become a book, was gone. He could never duplicate the unbridled energy that had come with the words. But it did not matter. What mattered was that by burning his manuscript she had shown him that she would not end the relationship; she would not bother to cause him pain if she was not going to stay. Perhaps he was not a true writer after all. He had read somewhere that, for true writers, nothing was more important than their art, not even love.

6 thoughts on “Extract Question – Richard and Kainene’s relationship

    • It’s pretty wonderful. I feel cheated because the books I studied as a student were fairly awful. Enjoy!

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