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A Good Man in Africa: A Novel Paperback – January 14, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Morgan Leafy had high hopes when he first headed out to the small African nation of Kinjanja to serve as Her British Majesty's representative. But once there, Leafy's dreams of professional advancement and personal happiness soon fade: this son of an airport catering manager finds himself overtaken on the career ladder by other, newer recruits to the diplomatic corps who come from the right family and attended the right schools. What's worse, the girl of his dreams has just become engaged to someone younger, thinner, and better connected. And if all this weren't enough to make a career civil servant miserable, Leafy is also being blackmailed by a representative of one of Kinjanja's many political parties who has presented him with a puzzling task: get to know the Scottish medical doctor at a local university.

Author William Boyd has written about Africa before, most notably in his bestselling novel Brazzaville Beach. In A Good Man in Africa, Boyd spins a darkly comic tale of political corruption, revolution, sexual misadventure, blackmail, and death. By novel's end, Leafy may not have become a better man--or even a much wiser one--but he has acquired a kind of dignity and gritty courage for which he is well suited. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This is a wildly funny novel, rich in witty prose and raucous incidents . . . without qualification, a delight." -The Washington Post

"Entertaining and successful . . . a champion storyteller. His prose style is intelligent, vigorous and pleasant." -The New York Times Book Review

"Comic realism echoing Evelyn Waugh . . . nimbly plotted, gracefully written . . . Boyd had endowed British fiction with a welcome depth and liveliness." -New York Newsday

"A gutsy writer . . . William Boyd is good company to keep." -Time


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030026
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Boyd is the author of ten novels, including A Good Man in Africa, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award; An Ice-Cream War, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Brazzaville Beach, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; Any Human Heart, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet; and Restless, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By lazza on July 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
William Boyd, a terrific writer who knows Africa quite well (..he was brought up there), really cuts loose with 'A Good Man in Africa'. He completely deconstructs the psyche of the pompous, self-righteous and arrogant British colonial rulers (diplomats) of Africa during the 1960s. However I think even the most right wing British will not be offended with this book since his leading characters are so over-the-top buffoons and prigs it is obvious the author is writing a purely fictious comic novel, in the Tom Sharpe-esque tradition (but better written), rather than intentionally being cruel.
The story is about the travails of a junior British diplomat who is stuck in a nowhere African country and, despite wanting to succeed in his job/life, completely makes an ass out of himself. This is made easier by having a nitwit boss, a local mistress with a social disease, and the knack of always putting his foot in his mouth. The book is often laugh-out-loud funny. And the author has done a marvellous job in structuring the book; it is well-paced and literate.
Bottom line: surely among William Boyd's best works.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are few enjoyments in life better than a direct, unfettered comedic form told in literary style - here is an example. No pretense, no glossing over the low points of life - however base - but never yieldng in style. It is possible to be really funny and intelligent at the same time. A great run-through of the British pretense for class and superiority - there is absolutely nothing superior in the end that has anything to do with these British Foreign Service types pretending to be somebody in third world Africa. Morgan Leafy's pretensions and attempts to satisfy his inner cravings - inevitably ending in disaster and ever plunging disgrace - often foiled by the good Dr. Murrary (who is everything Leafy should be but is not) are hilarious. Boyd's descriptions of Leafy's drunken bumblings and the horrible hangovers that ensue are just plain funny. The social commentary on British attempts at understanding - much less improving - the "colonial" cultures they presume to lead is priceless. Sad that this great and funny read is out of print - but well worth tracking down a copy in the "used" section.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
One of the great comic set pieces of contemporary fiction, A Good Man in Africa tells the story of Morgan Leafy, a minor English diplomat whose posting to a small African country rapidly accelerates into disaster. Leafy, an overweight Londoner in his thirties is quite unsuited to life in the tropics, dividing his time between heavy drinking and romantic dalliances, unwisely including his bosses' daughter, the wife of a prominent local politician and a prostitute called Hazel, with results that not even Morgan, in his worst nightmares, could ever have predicted. Blackmailed and desperate, he is forced by circumstances to try to bribe one Doctor Alex Murray, an upstanding Scottish physician, the novel's unyielding face of moral probity and Morgan's hated nemesis. The slide has begun, and it does not end until events take an unexpected twist in the closing pages. A Good Man In Africa is a marvellous, rare kind of book. Hilarious, with fine characterization and a well paced plot, it combines the intelligence of classic fiction with ground-level punch. Due in part to a weak screenplay and some of the worst miscasting in the history of cinema it did not work well as a film, but the novel remains a classic of twentieth century modern fiction.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Goodbye on January 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I began disliking the main character in this plot - Morgan - largely beause he was rude about the Welsh - too much of that in the world today. But as the book progressed I liked him more and more.
So many wonderful funny almost farcical situations which made me laugh outloud (a lol experience). Morgan gets into scrapes and digs himself deeper into the mire. The excellent thing is, and this why I began to like him, he eventually resigns himself to the outcomes, throws in the towel and takes it all on the chin. Pure freedom comes for him even though he's still in the poo.
Another great book from William Boyd, which strips away the myth of the British having any dynamic role abroad, meddling in the affairs of other countries. It all ends in tears for the establishment , and they bloody well deserve it too.
Boyd knocks the tired old hierarchies of British society: public school, accents - the usual bull. The irony is that the only person who even tries to gets things done is the working class boy made good (well almost). The humour comes when Morgan fails at everything.
I recommend this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Richard Sawyer on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is easy to see why this book won two important literary awards. Boyd has produced a highly readable, literate, darkly comic story of the British colonial experience. The characters are superbly developed and believable, the plot is extremely well paced and engaging, and the strengths and weaknesses of the human character are fully explored. A great piece of literature, very highly recommended. Boyd's many other novels, including An Ice Cream War, The New Confessions, Brazzaville Beach, The Blue Afternoon, and Any Human Heart are equally terrific. Boyd is clearly one of our most talented contemporary writers of fiction.
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