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The Turning Over Hardcover – October, 1998

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Turning Over is a cautionary tale of good intentions gone awry in a disintegrating world. William McCauley takes the tragedy of postcolonial Africa as the theme of this first novel, set in the Sierra Leone of the mid-1980s. Robert Kelley, an expatriate American, has lived for several years in a small rural village where he has established a successful fisheries program. Life has been good to him--he has his African live-in lover in the village and an American USAID girlfriend, Marie, in nearby Mali. But all good things must come to an end, especially in Africa. Kelley is offered a new project in an unstable region of the country, and against his better judgment, he delays joining Marie in order to accept. It isn't long before he is embroiled in a tragic and bloody political struggle. McCauley writes with authority, not only about the political situation in Sierra Leone but also about the details of expatriate life in the developing world. From Fourth of July parties at the American embassy to the almost claustrophobic nature of the expat community and their potentially dangerous sense of entitlement and immunity, he gets things right. --Margaret Prior

From Publishers Weekly

The current horrific news of atrocities in Sierra Leone gives McCauley's bland and undistinguished debut, about foreign aid workers in that country, a cachet it would otherwise lack. His jaded protagonist, Robert Kelley, has lived for the last few years in a remote village, smoking grass, sleeping with his 15-year-old maid and working with the local fishermen to set up a cooperative. Kelley has not fully burnt out, despite the imminent turning over of the cooperative to a corrupt government ministry. Alexander, Kelley's African rival and replacement, is a modern combination of technocratic civil servant and would-be Big Man. The culture clash between Kelley's dormant idealism and Alexander's guarded ambition is deferred, however, when Kelley is offered another development position in an "aquaculture project," which guarantees autonomy from both the government and the chiefs but is located in a politically unstable region and brings him in touch with disaster. McCauley's novel reads like a Joyce Cary tale without Cary's nuanced characterizations or irony. Though Kelley's grim trip may miss the heart of darkness by a long shot, McCauley should be praised for depicting some of the paranoia that comes with political instability and a slight hint of the chaos that will follow.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Permanent Pr Pub Co; First Edition edition (October 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579620124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579620127
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,206,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill McCauley was born in Oklahoma of Depression-era parents who lived some of the migrant life of the Okies depicted in Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," settling in California during the war years. After the war, again looking for work, they took their family of three children to Washington, to Oregon, back to Oklahoma, thence to Kansas, and finally to Seattle, there to stay. Bill, their eldest, had a life in all those places. At the University of Washington he earned undergraduate degrees in Geological Oceanography and Scientific and Technical Communication. From his earliest years he loved the way the language in books discovered new worlds that could be experienced in the mind. He started writing early, but was easily diverted by life. It was only in his middle age that he brought together the experience he'd gained writing all those hundreds of fragments with the discipline to work every day, and developed the writing habit that motivates him now. He lives (and writes every day) in Auburn, Washington.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Turning Over" is one of the best books I have read about Sierra Leone.
The book follows the journey of an American expatriate during a time of change in that country. In the 1980's, most expratriates were turning over their jobs to local indigineous people in most places in Africa. The programs were then run by corrupt governments that cared little about the well-being of indigineous people. McCauley's book shows in great detail the dilemma westerners faced while "turning over" successful programs to corrupt local governments.
The love story between Bob, the main character and Mary, keeps the reader on his/her toes. It is hard to predict what will happen next... and I believe, Mr. McCauley does a great job at keeping both the topics of love and Africa alive throughout his book.
The books deals also with complex issues such as: the difference between men and women, sex, drugs, corruption, dependency, violence and politics.
Have fun with it!
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By A Customer on January 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Bill McCauley has taken the time to craft an adventure with details that goose the senses. His approach to humidity, lust, conscience and morale had me pausing every few pages to wonder what I would do in such situations. By taking the moral high ground as an expatriate willing to donate everything to a greater cause, his narrator leaves the door open to personal gratification with no consequence. Or so he thinks. This is a great tale and a great insight to one of the most controversial African nations of our time. McCauley knows Sierra Leone, and, moreover, his love for the place and the time he spent there is apparent. The Turning Over is a terrific book.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the book front to back. It provided thought provoking insights into Africa, the power dynamics of the times, western development efforts in the region and I thought it provided an interesting character to walk us through all this.
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