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Looking for Lovedu: Days and Nights in Africa Hardcover – January 23, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Ann Jones decided to travel overland from Tangier to the southern tip of Africa with an Englishman she barely knew, she lived firsthand the worst and best of travel. Muggleton, at 28 half Jones's age and twice her size, turns out to be a road warrior with a foul temper who insists on charging headlong across a continent with practically no roads. Seen this way, Africa becomes little more than a drive-by history lesson (Jones injects encapsulated summaries for each country they pass but fail to truly visit). With his mantra, "We can do it on our own," Muggleton insists on crossing the Sahara alone with no map, bearings, or road, and takes the more treacherous road across Zaire simply to be rid of a convoy of jeeps (and, of course, to prove himself). The chasms of mud and water that cover the "roads" of Zaire cause the duo innumerable hardships and frustrations. Muggleton comes down with malaria, Jones's feet turn gray and her toenails fall off, the jeep falls to pieces--all to cover in five days what passing Africans walk in two. It's those same potholes, however, that ultimately save the journey and the book, for the creeping pace forces them to interact with their surroundings, and ultimately to split up. After that, Jones hooks up with two women, a Brit and a Kenyan, and the remainder of the journey takes a decidedly opposite approach. With the slower and more receptive pace, Jones begins to experience Africa, and to learn from the African inside her own car.

The irony of the Jones-Muggleton expedition is that its ultimate goal was to meet Modjadji V, the rainmaking queen of the Lovedu people of South Africa. As an "aging female," Jones is intrigued to meet the reigning member of a dynasty of single mothers and to experience a culture that values traditionally "feminine" ideals such as compromise, cooperation, tolerance, and peace, a far cry from her working relationship with the testosterone-charged Muggleton. The opinionated Jones, however, is not as close to those ideals as she would like to think. In fact, her coverage of West Africa is disturbing--she condemns the Tuareg social system as offensive without meeting a single member of nomadic tribe, and declares Ghana and Togo identical simply because she doesn't have time look for differences. These are the types of sweeping observations colonialists used to defend their rules. Jones's lesson then is to learn how to incorporate the Lovedu's values with the challenges of taking charge of her own journey. Ultimately, the book proves just how difficult it is to experience the vastness and variety of Africa from your car. --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

Faced with the hardships of trans-African travel on a shoestring budget, how long can two ill-matched travelers maintain a cooperative relationship? According to adventure writer Jones, about as far as Zaire. Jones (Women Who Kill, etc.) and her companion, a brawny and intrepid British photographer, resolve to cross the African continent in a souped-up Land Rover, ostensibly on a mission to find the legendary Lovedu tribe of southern Africa. The Lovedu are organized as a matriarchal monarchy; their queen is a rainmaking, peace-loving diplomat. Jones's curiosity about the feminist society increases even as her companion grows more obsessed with the challenges of transitAgreedy border guards, blistering heat, car trouble. She finds herself subject to the whims of a "petrol head," whose only interest is to press on across the deserts, mudslides and ravines that stand between him and the finish line. In Kenya, Jones frees herself of this masculine ballast and proceeds to Loveduland with female companions. Her account of her high-speed odyssey affords a startling glimpse of modern Africa; its conclusion in the woods of Loveduland gives the lighthearted exploit a deeper significance. Already at an age that most African women will not live to see, Jones is both a dauntless adventurer and a wise observer. Charming and well written, her story should be popular with readers interested in a woman's perspective on African exploration. (Jan. 30)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (January 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375405542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375405549
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,425,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nancy L. Rosen on January 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What an inspiration for this middle aged female dreamer. The author's arduous journey through Africa included her adventures and struggles with the realities of travelling through places where roads are more a walking path than a car path. The first part of the trip with her male companion who sees travel as more a competition than a journey was more of a conventional road trip spiced with history. The second part with her woman companions, allows us to see the people more than the car..Ms Jones however, is not always at the center of this journey. We are always firmly grounded in Africa,its cultural and political history, before and during the colonial period and after independence. Each country is carefully delineated; its own unique history summed up. The reader finishes this book with a broader understanding of the continent which we tend to see in the news only as a place ravaged by war and AIDS.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Its most vivid scenes really stayed with me-the 3-day trip across the Sahara with no roads and no map, the drunken village party in Tanzania that turns menacing, the final visit with the Queen of the Lovedu. I learned a great deal not only about Africa but about Jones' bravery and resourcefulness. The writing is beautiful and exact, and the narration has a rare emotional honesty.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter R. Sperling on May 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
From the first page of Ann Jones'LOOKING FOR LOVEDU, I knew I was in for a literary treat. As the book unfolded, with writing that can only be described as beauteous, direct, and as well painted as any author I have read in the past twenty years, I was never disappointed. It starts as a sheer adventure story as Ann and her co-traveler, Muggleton, a rugged,macho Englishman half her age, plot their Odyssey from one tip of Africa to the other in a second-hand Land Rover. The early part of the story demonstrates Ms Jones'ingenuity in attracting sponsors and dealing with the practical preparations. But it also interjects a "mission" to the effort: seeking out the Queen of the Lovedu tribe, a remote cluster of persons who live on old territory now within the borders of South Africa. The tribe, largely ingnored in athropological circles, is one of the few (or only) matriarchal groups in Africa, with an heriditary female leader and tribal values that are more compromising, cooperative, and conciliatory than the confrontational societies that surround them. This is the setting, but we have only just begun. The day to day adventures, as the Land Rover plods from Morocco, through the Sahara, sub-Sahara and Central Africa, and ultimately to South Africa, are vividly described. We move on with incredible driving feats by Muggleton and his uncanny car repair skills, complemented by Ms. Jones'ability to cope with everything else, including the endless, archaic paperwork required by bribe-seeking border officials. Danger, discomfort, and beauty lurk around them as we are also introduced to new themes. Male/female roles, practically derived and otherwise, are touched on with subtle, and sometimes comical, insight.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrea R. Lurie on January 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed the woman's point of view in this book. As Jones points out, when we read about Africans, it is too often about African men - the female experience is left out. Here, we have the pleasure of viewing the continent through the eyes of a well-informed middle-aged woman traveler. Jones describes not only the natural, historical and political background of the countries through which she travels, but also the lives and works of the women she sees and interacts with along the way. A well-written and witty page-turner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Margarite Landry on February 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Ann Jones' Looking for Lovedu is sometimes so funny that I laughed out loud, and the adventures are so compelling and so beautifully told that it's hard to put the book down. Imagine being in Mauritania, or Zaire, with such an observant traveler. The colors, the sounds, the villages, the people, the heat are vivid, and knowledgably described. This is a beautiful book. I'm looking forward to the next travel book she writes.
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