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The Gravity of Sunlight Paperback – July 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569472408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569472408
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,179,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Uganda in the months leading up to Idi Amin's coup d'?tat in 1971, Shand's debut novel chronicles the domestic life of Agnes, an American expatriate and part-time teacher. A devoted mother of three, Agnes is locked in an unfulfilling marriage with John, a college teacher and Lutheran deacon who tells her that she can and must will herself to love him. But Agnes dreams of passion, eventually entering an affair with Wulf, a Polish professor and colleague of her husband, as the political structure of Uganda grows daily more unstable. The dramatic political upheaval that looms in the novel's background intrudes little into Agnes's personal drama. As a narrator, she is extremely articulate on the subject of her emotional life, yet almost entirely mute about the events occurring in the country around her; information about changing social tides are gleaned through local rumor and gossip. But the plot is secondary in this dreamy novel; more important are the well-controlled writing and the detailed character descriptions that demand that readers pay attention to every word. Most chapters are constructed almost as a meditation, opening with a brief second-person, semi-instructional essay on African life, followed by a vignette extrapolating the essay's moral and philosophical musings. The novel is rife with luxurious passages of poetic prose, and though Shand chooses to downplay the drama of the Ugandan political landscape, she succeeds admirably in presenting Agnes's quotidian struggles to assimilate with African culture and to cope with her loveless marriage. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Shand's tensely erotic debut novel is set in Uganda during Idi Amin's rise to power. Agnes, an American teacher, is trapped in a loveless marriage to John, a minister. Although she is devoted to her children, she often fantasizes about the men she meets. Then, when John unknowingly befriends one of these men and invites him to a party, Agnes' daydreams take root in the real world. Agnes' affair with Wulf, a Polish researcher, is paralleled by John's affair with a young Ugandan student, who eventually denounces him for seducing her under the pretext of being her "spiritual advisor." Agnes' relationship with Wulf, meanwhile, reflects her love for Uganda and the way of life that she has adopted as her own. In the friction between Agnes and John, Shand reveals the insidious political conflicts that made Amin's bloody coup possible. Writing with intensity and passion, Shand deftly examines issues of morality and sexuality within the context of conflicting cultural standards. Bonnie Johnston
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Prufer on September 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is simply a beautiful book with well developed characters, scene setting that makes you want to hop a jet to Africa, real emotion, and a wonderful story of love and longing, betrayal, adventure and everyday life. I love this book! With apologies to Barbara Kingsolver, it's similar in that it's set in Africa, it's about a minster, his wife and their children and their time in that strangely intoxicating country, but it's so much more readable than Kingsolver whom I never finished. One of the most interesting aspects of Rosa Shand's novel is the beginning paragraph of each chapter in which she sets a scene or merely ponders on something unrelated to the action. These pieces are so very poetic in themselves. And then there's the story -- Agnes, who many women will relate to, who cannot "will herself" to love her unconnected husband, fantasizes about a man who she becomes inevitably bound with. But enough of that, read it yourself, you won't regret it. (And who in their right mind would call this book racist? The "reviewer" clearly missed the point if he/she even read beyond the first chapter...) Rosa Shand, please write more!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For those who like fine, poetic writing this novel fills the bill. In some ways I would compare it to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - as it is set against a political upheaval in Africa and deals with Americans trying to cope in a foreign land. Another parallel is the religious connection - Shand tells the story of Agnes who is married (sadly) to a Lutheran deacon and teacher who is harsh and unromantic. Agnes lives in a separate world and becomes involved in an affair with a Polish professor and seems rather oblivious to the political upheaval going on all around her. A fine, involving read.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Susan Jackson on June 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Gravity of Sunlight by Rosa Shand is an extraordinary and sensuous novel equally brilliant in its creation of place (Uganda in the 1970's during Amin's rise to power) and its exploration of human desire. Shand's depth of image in the externals of Africa -- the smells of wood smoke and gardenias; the musical sounds in the "buzz and whir" of insects or antiphonal native song floating through the "rustling of mango leaves;" and the sights of "thick green," "dusty glitter," and flopping banana leaves -- become inseparable from the internal soul. Equally, Shand's portrayal of characters through Agnes's sensitive and urgent consciousness, as when she sees Wulf during the early stages of her attraction to him,"a figure in a gleaming pure-white jacket, a man in the dark at the bottom of her drive" deeply penetrate not only Agnes's soul but our own interior selves.
Agnes is a woman who craves love and attachment to all living things. Uganda, teeming with aliveness, paradoxically both nourishes her and fosters her restlessness and need for fulfillment. So real is the experience of this book that I felt a tightening in my own chest, becoming connected to Agnes's joy, pain, and ultimately her confusion and disorder over the mystery of love and how it perches in one's own heart.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eustacia Vye on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This novel is so pretty, so elegant, so poetic. The beauty of the language and the depth of the love story set against the hideous ugliness of Idi Amin's reign is a marvel. The story is sensual and erotic, the prose so lovely that you feel Africa. The heat, the mosquitoes, the sultry evenings. A lyrical novel that's a delight to read.
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By Archer on June 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Had to read this book for a school assignment. It just wasn't to my liking. I can't say I enjoyed it at all. Not dogging the book, just wasn't my type of read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James P Shanor on January 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Beautiful and flowing. Rare. Shand is a masterful writer. She captures the universalities of tensions in marriage, yet draws vivid pictures of the disappearing mixtures of subcultures in a Uganda in turmoil a generation ago. The lessons are subtle and still relevant.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mark Forster on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like her character, Prudence, Rosa Shand paints portraits. Not only of the African landscape, but also the landscape of the mind. By staying "locked" in the eyes and ears of Agnes, Shand conveys a true, subjective experience of a woman living her life in Amin's Uganda. But The Gravity of Sunlight is not about politics or Africa. It is about Agnes. About her unfulfilling marriage. And the sublimation of her extramarital, interracial desire.
A reader above calls this book racist. Baloney. This book is about Agnes, not the apotheosis of Africans, and the Africans whom Agnes does meet are in no way "demonized." Sadly, this critic's predilection to see racism will distort anything he reads. Furthermore, false accusations like his damage good people and impair our ability to detect real racism when it does occur.
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