Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Amie: African Adventure by @LucindaEClarke #Africa

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Amie: African Adventure by Lucinda E Clarke

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I was slightly apprehensive about reading this book as I have traveled to a number of African countries for leisure and work purposes. I have also written a series of non-fiction publications about investment in Africa. I was worried that this book would not jell with my knowledge and experience of Africa. That turned out to be an unnecessary concern. Lucinda E Clarke has a sound knowledge of life for expatriates and the locals in certain war-torn, “least developed” African countries and does an excellent job of setting the scene for this story.

I enjoyed her balanced approach to describing the life styles of both the expatriate community and the locals and the detail that was provided about the schooling, hospitalisation, politics, corruption and difficulties with business dealings in this fictional country of Togodo. The descriptions of Aime and her husband’s visit to a game farm and the African countryside are beautiful and the author shares some interesting facts about survival in the bush.

The story of Aime’s adventure is fast paced and entertaining. My only criticism is that there were to many fortunate coincident and lucky breaks for Aime and her husband that were a bit unbelievable but this did not detract overly from a jolly good story.

I would recommend this book for people who like the idea of an entertaining adventure in a realistic African setting.

I rated this book four out of five stars.

Book description

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.

About the author

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.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Forbidden Fruit by @stangazemba #AfricanLiterature @TheMantle

Today’s Team Review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

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Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba is a story about the frailties of human nature. Set in Western Kenya, it offers the reader a glimpse of what life is like for peasant villagers struggling to make ends meet against a harsh and unforgiving landscape.

From the onset it is clear that Gazemba has a gift for descriptive writing as he brings to life the back breaking existence of being a farm labourer. The peasant farmers live in compounds in basic huts. Their lives are shaped by poverty although the customs and traditions that they live by afford them some enjoyment. For example at Christmas they form a choir and the children decorate the outside of the huts by daubing them with white clay mixed with the juice of pumpkin leaves. In contrast the landowner enjoys the luxury of living in a big, splendid house with servants to wait on him.

Life for the peasants is framed around a patriarchal society. The women have to work alongside the men in the fields but also have to take care of children and tend to the housekeeping. Cleaning and cooking is the domain of women who risk a beating should they be late home to attend to their chores. Custom also demands that women are covered and wear head scarves. Only the daughters of the landowner fare better as they are educated abroad and have careers.

Although there is a low key sense of tension running through the novel it moves at a gentle pace perhaps in keeping with the rhythm of life in an African village. The most striking element of the story is the way Gazemba develops his characters and shows them to be deeply flawed. The male characters are the ones who drive the story forward towards a disastrous finale whilst the women are forced to suffer the consequences.

The main character is Ombima, a poor middle-aged farm worker who prides himself on his honesty but then goes on to steal from the landowner’s garden. It is this act that sets in motion a dangerous chain of events. Although it’s easy to forgive Ombima’s theft, given that his family is practically starving, the fact that he’s willing to point the finger of blame at other equally vulnerable characters makes him less sympathetic to the reader. Deep down he resents his poverty and is bitter that he missed out on an education as when his father became disabled he had to become his family’s wage earner.

His friendship with Ang’ote is complex as superficially they are close but beneath the surface resentment and jealousy threatens to consume them and indeed leads to a terrible act of treachery. Ang’ote gives the appearance of being a generous, unkempt, free spirit but there is a darkness lurking within whilst Ombima likes to feel superior to his friend’s chaotic lifestyle. Through the two men’s relationship, Gazemba explores the idea that poverty, rather than bringing people together, drives us to exploit our differences in order to feel superior to someone else. History has taught us the truth of this as society creates a hierarchy and no one wants to feel like they are at the bottom.

It is the female characters who are the heart of the story. Ombima’s wife, Sayo, is gentle and uncomplaining; making the best of what life offers her no matter how unfair that may be. Rebecca is an older woman who has been left to care for numerous grandchildren as their mothers have fled to the cities in the hope of a better life. She is a beautiful woman who has been ravaged by the sun, hard work and the harshness of a life of poverty. She is though very wise and morally sound, she cautions Ang’ote to “learn in life to accept yourself for what you are.”

The most complex female character is Madam Tabitha, the wife of the rich landowner. She is trapped in a loveless marriage and her dissatisfaction and need to feel wanted cause her to behave in a way that has disastrous consequences. She is clearly an intelligent woman, working as a school mistress, and she shows compassion to the villagers also urging her husband, Andimi, to do likewise. She looks back on the way she had her head turned by Andimi with a bitter sense of regret. At the same time, however, she enjoys the luxury of having nice things and living in splendour.

What I found particularly interesting about Forbidden Fruit is the way Gazemba depicts the complexity of communities. It’s easy to idealise the idea of everyone pulling together and supporting each other and to a large extent this is shown to take place, especially in times of loss. However, the compounds are also riddled with petty jealousies and divisions. For example, Ngayira is a witch who people are happy to take their sick to for help but then they turn on her when things go wrong, blaming her for cursing their livestock etc.

Gazemba uses his novel to show the good and bad sides of human nature. We are all flawed and this is starkly apparent in a small community. I really enjoyed Forbidden Fruit as it’s gentle and thoughtful. If you’re interested in reading about other cultures and the universal themes that connect us all then this is one for you.

Book Description

Fiction. African and African American Studies. Winner of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a “harmless” crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima’s family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba’s FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups–sometimes sad, sometimes farcical–are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli

About the author

Stanley Gazemba

Stanley Gazemba is an award-winning author and his breakthrough novel, ‘The Stone Hills of Maragoli’, published by Kwani? won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Kenyan Literature in 2003. He is also the author of two other novels: ‘Callused Hands’ and ‘Khama’, he has written eight children’s books. A prolific writer, Stanley’s articles and stories have appeared in several international publications including the New York Times, ‘A’ is for Ancestors, the Caine Prize Anthology and the East African magazine. Stanley lives in Nairobi and his short story ‘Talking Money’ was recently published in ‘Africa 39’, a Hay Festival publication which was released in 2014. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, ‘Africa 39’ features a collection of 39 short stories by some of Africa’s leading contemporary authors. Stanley is also in the process of working on an array of creative literary projects.

 

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