I have not read any Naipaul prior to reading this work. The back of this book says that Naipaul is Conrad's heir and I couldn't agree with that more. This book is set in a thinly disguised Congo and it documents the years following independence. The book looks at the boom bust cycle tribal jealousies and tin pt dictators all told through the eyes of a true outsider. The main character is of Indian Muslim origin and is part of the community that has lived on the east coast of |Africa for generations. However, he is not interested in religion, slowly severs his ties to the family and as a completely unaligned person observes the slide into global isolation and dictatorship.
The book is proper post-colonial writing. One always worries that such a book will depict people living in a garden of evil, then rapacious colonialism and then post-independent countries that fail because of subtler Western colonialism. There is enough of that to be fair, but the narrative and observations of the boo are much richer and complex. Naipaul won a Nobel Prize for literature. I have no problem with that at all.