Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading Amie: African Adventure by Lucinda E Clarke
3 out of 5 stars
The book starts with a terrific prologue about a girl incarcerated in what I assumed to be an African jail. On to Chapter One, where, back in England, we meet Amie, a rather twee young woman whose husband is offered a job in the fictional country of Togodo. Amie is concerned that this will interfere with her life-plan, which is, basically, to live as her parents. Once in Togodo, she expresses much surprise that everything isn’t just like it is back home, but new friends and fellow ex-pats are there to show her and Jonathon the ropes.
The aspect of this book that I liked very much indeed was the insight into the culture of Africa, the political system, the law, or lack of it, and just the day to day domestic life, social problems and customs. It’s clear the author knows her stuff, and it’s delivered so well. As the novel progresses, I learned much about the farce of foreign aid, government corruption and the problems facing the aid workers who actually do care.
In fact, I liked the African life element so much that, to a large extent, it made up for the weaker side of the novel: the characterisation. The expatriates in Africa all talk in perfectly formed sentences imparting the required amount of information; there are no individual nuances of speech. During a trip home to England, Amie’s family and friends speak as one in either their total disinterest in or their nasty, critical dismissal about her way of life in Africa; I realise that this was a vehicle to give cause for Amie’s feeling of distance from her former life, but I felt it could have been approached more subtly. I also found the dialogue between Amie and Jonathan stilted, wooden and oddly old-fashioned; the words Amie uses (such as exclamations of ‘Goodness!’ to indicate surprise) and her naïve questions and attitudes/observations did little to portray a 21st century twenty-something who works in the media.
Three quarters of the way through the book a military coup takes place and Amie’s life is turned upside down; the danger and her escape certainly ups the pace and it is well-written, but, alas, by then, I found everything about her irritating. I do understand that this is just a personal reaction, though; not everyone would find her so.
I’ve looked at the author’s bio and see that she writes non-fiction books as well as fiction. I think she has such a great voice when it comes to putting over the feel of a country, and she writes about it in such an accessible way; I am sure I would enjoy her non-fiction. Had the main character in this novel been older, or a bit more worldly, I may have found her more realistic. Despite my criticisms, though, I do think this book would be enjoyed by those with a particular interest in the African way of life.
Amie was just an average girl, living in her home town close to friends and family. She was happily married and she had her future all planned out. They would have two adorable children, while she made award winning programmes for television. Until the day her husband announced he was being sent to live and work in an African country she had never heard of. When she came to the notice of a Colonel in the Government, it made life very complicated, and from there things started to escalate from bad to worse. If Amie could have seen that one day she would be totally lost, fighting for her life, and enduring untold horrors, she would never have stepped foot on that plane.
Born in Dublin, matured in England, wanted to follow grandfather into Fleet Street, family not wildly enthusiastic – unfeminine, unreliable and dangerous. Went to dockland Liverpool – safe, respectable and pensionable. Returned south with teaching qualifications, extremely good at self defence. Went crofting in Scotland, bred Cairn Terriers among other things. Moved to Kenya with 7 week old daughter, abandoned in the bush. On to Libya, surviving riots, public hangings, imprisoned husband and eventual deportation. Queued with the unemployed millions in UK. Moved to Botswana – still teaching – opened and ran the worst riding school in the world,- with ‘How to…’ book in hand.
Moved south to South Africa taught for four years, then in 1986 became a full time freelance writer, for major corporations, UNESCO, UNICEF and the South African Broadcasting Corporation for both radio and television. Moving into video production in 1986, received over 20 awards, specializing in education, documentaries, municipal and government, one script for National Geographic.
Returned UK Jan 1994, back to SA before April elections.
Taught in 7 countries, including Britain, Kenya, France, Libya, Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa. Also found time to breed animals for pet shops, write a newspaper column, publish two books, Heinneman & Macmillan, and work for several years as a radio announcer. Married with two daughters, a stepson and stepdaughter, moved to Spain in 2008. I now write a monthly column and have published two more books, a memoir and an adventure story set in Africa.