Monday, 29 January 2018

AMIE: AFRICAN ADVENTURE by Lucinda E Clarke

3 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie Amber's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

Genre: Contemporary drama, about ex-pats and government corruption in Africa

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 na├»ve 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 about her travels 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.

4 comments:

  1. As you know, Terry, I have enjoyed all these books and mainly because of Lucinda's knowledge of Africa. I feel I am back there and experiencing the heat, the smells and the raw beauty of the bush (very different from South Africa's green Natal hills). As you rightly say, her knowledge about such African countries, both good and bad, is what make the book(s). I've spent time in both Zimbabwe and Namiba much of which I recognise when I read Amie, including the power politics and corruption. The rest is personal taste of course! A great and fair review!

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    1. Thanks - yes, I chose this book from those submitted to the review team because I knew you liked them! If it had been a personal reading choice I would have just stopped reading it and, thus, not reviewed, but it's different when it's a submission to the team because I am committed to providing one. Trouble is that I have to really believe in the characters to like a novel, and these I just didn't. Feasible dialogue is so important to me. Everything that happened was fascinating, but I would have liked to read about it without the oddly Famous Five type main character!

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  2. Feasible dialogue can definitely be a make or break. There's been novels that I've loved in most other aspects, but the dialogue just felt wrong, and that majorly detracted from the appeal because it threw me out of the story a bit.

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