by Francesca Marciano
Feeling adrift when her father -an Italian poet- dies, Esmé travels to Africa. She is smitten by the vast, incomprehensible beauty of Kenya and impulsively decides to ditch her travelling companion and stay. She takes up living with a safari tour guide, but falls in love with another guy who works as a war correspondent. It is a story of relationships- the ins and outs of friendships, who is with whom – a constant shuffle- for all the room in Africa, the group of European expats is so small it feels crammed with their too-close familiarity. Their widely varied reasons for being in Africa were interesting; not so much all the gossip and innuendo. The main character is kind of pathetic. She has no real reason to be there, never has a job, pines after men. And yet- although that major part of the novel did not interest me much- I found this book rather compelling. Because of the way life in Africa is described. Glimpses of wildlife and arguments on its management, race differences, third-world conditions and horrific stories of genocide in Rwanda are all background material to the story. I wish all that had been in the fore, instead. I liked the writing enough that I wanted to keep reading even though I idly forgot who was friends with whom and which person knew what about the other. I cared more for the picture of a vivid land with its struggles and squalor and beauty.
Rating: 3/5 293 pages, 1998