Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on modern Africa, September 30, 2007
This review is from: The Zanzibar Chest (Paperback)
Aidan Hartley is an African born (4th generation, of English decent) journalist, in the field during the tumultuous late 80's to mid 90's. He covered wars in Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, and even in the Balkans. The Zanzibar Chest weaves the experiences of Aidan's father, his own childhood in Kenya and his experiences working as a stringer for Reuters into the history of Africa itself. Hartley's ability to capture the bittersweet love affair he has with his homeland is remarkable. He fully realizes (more so than most) the horrors perpetuated on the African people, by outside forces and by one another. Neither overly condemning nor sentimental, Hartley writes with a passion that is firmly grounded in his vast knowledge of the continent to create a narrative that is romantic, horrifying and brutally honest.

Another thing I enjoyed about his writing style was that he conveyed a sense of both the epic and the intimate about his own experiences. Although much of the writing deals with the history, geography and politics of Africa, there is also extensive detailed descriptions of people, objects, foods, customs, locations, etc. These small personal details often convey a humanity and even humor despite the horrifying events throughout the book. He creates a real sense of being there, much like a travelogue. I hope Hartley writes more, because this book fleshed out my own thinking on Africa as no other single book has. I suggest anyone interested in expanding your world view, to read this book and prepare to do so with a lump in your throat.
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