Petals of Blood is a novel written by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and first published in 1977. Set in Kenya just after independence, the story follows four characters – Munira, Abdulla, Wanja, and Karega – whose lives are intertwined due to the Mau Mau rebellion. In order to escape city life, each retreats to the small, pastoral village of Ilmorog. As the novel progresses, the characters deal with the repercussions of the Mau Mau rebellion as well as with a new, rapidly westernizing Kenya.
The novel largely deals with the scepticism of change after Kenya’s liberation from the British Empire, questioning to what extent free Kenya merely emulates, and subsequently perpetuates, the oppression found during its time as a colony. Other themes include the challenging of capitalism, politics, and the effects of westernization. Education, schools, and the Mau Mau rebellion are also used to unite the characters, who share a common history with one another.