Monday, January 14, 2008

In December I started routinely listening to an audio book while ironing (I confess, I iron my sheets and pillow cases, and as there was a steady stream of guests, that meant plenty of consistent listening time!). I'm in two minds as to whether I can really count it as "reading," but as it was unabridged, I'm allowing it. My first dabble with audiobooks has been A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA by William Boyd (read by Timothy Spall). This won a Whitbread for best first novel in 1981 and a Somerset Maugham the following year. I hated it.

Morgan Leafy, our "hero" is a cad, and so is just about everyone else. The only strong black African character, Adekunle, is a corrupt bully, and so it goes on... There's lots of bed-hopping, blackmail and office jealousy in the corridors of the British High Commission in Kinjanja. I suppose one can argue that it is a satire, sending up the mighty Commonwealth and its celebrated influence in Africa. And I suppose it does do all that. But, even for ironing, I was hoping for something a little meatier than a book most marked by the almost total non-presence of any real African character. Of course the argument would be that that is precisely the point - for those in colonial administration, the locals were an irrelevance. I know that, I just feel we've moved past that now. And perhaps that's it - that this is a book of its time? Perhaps it is cleverer than I am giving Boyd credit for, and I am just not in the mood. I still don't like it, and don't think it is prize-winning material. But Timothy Spall, as reader, was superb.

Other books with a similar subject matter: IN A FREE STATE by V.S. Naipaul, WIZARD OF THE CROW by Ngugi wa Thiong'o and SEEING DOUBLE by Patrick Wilmot.

My next ironing companion is FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND by Sarah Challis. Let's see what happens this time - perhaps it is the ironing that sours the story?!


Anonymous James said...

I disliked the Boyd too. And the film was lousy.

2:30 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

There's a film?!

12:01 am  
Anonymous James said...

There is indeed - with Sean Connery, no less! And other great actors... to no avail.

2:18 pm  

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