Erudite, ambitious Ilyas was stolen from his parents by the schutztruppe askari, the Germans' colonial troops; after years at war, he returns to his village to find his parents gone, and his sister Afiya given away. Hamza was not stolen, but was sold; he has come of age in the schutztruppe, at the right hand of an officer whose zeal and control have ensured his protection but marked him for life. He does not have words for how the war ended for him, in a haze of blood. Returning to the village of his childhood, all Hamza wants is work, however humble, and security - and the beautiful Afiya. The century is young, and the blaze of empire burns hot on the east coast of Africa. The Germans and the British and the French and the Belgians and whoever else have may have drawn their maps and signed their treaties, but the embers of revolt are not yet extinguished, and the colonialists' hunger for complete dominion is far from sated. As these interlinked friends and lovers come and go, live and work and fall in love, the shadow of war lengthens and darkens, ready to snatch them up and carry them away. Raw yet rich, sweeping yet intimate, sprawling yet acutely realised, Afterlives is an epic novel about family, love, friendship, displacement empire and war; about the ways that violence defines and undoes us, and the lives that history chooses to forget.