Tuesday, May 2, 2017

White Elephant by Catherine Cooper

I struggled through this book because I thought I would gain further insight into the screwed up characters - but it wasn't really worth it in the end.

Ann and Richard and their 13 year old son Tor have moved from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone so Richard can fulfil his lifelong dream of using his medical degree to help those less fortunate.  But Sierra Leone is on the brink of civil war making it rather dangerous and life has not worked out well for any of them.  Richard doesn't get along with his partner - a medical school colleague who he had planned to join for years, but who doesn't take him seriously since he himself is African and views Richard as an outsider trying to impose his western views about female circumcision, herbalists and other local traditions.

Ann seems to be suffering from environmental illnesses which she believes are brought on by mould in their damp house (which was also a problem for her in Nova Scotia).  But Richard believes she is faking.  She is also trying to come to terms with the affair her husband had just before their departure from Nova Scotia and is angry all the time.  She is also trying to avoid the CRA who wish to conduct an audit - and she is hiding this from Richard who is less in tune with their financial situation back home.

Tor is very unhappy to be in Africa and thus exceeding rebellious, particularly against his father who, in fairness, is rather cruel to him.  Ann is sometimes overly protective and at other times also cruel to him.  He has trouble making friends as he is white and therefore so different thus is only able to hang out with a local troublemaker.  He goes on a hunger strike to express his opposition which makes him even more miserable.

The jacket of the book says we will discover why they left home and can't go back but that is revealed fairly early on and I kept hoping for more, but there wasn't really more.

The only sort of interesting piece was the comparison of the Christian missionary practices to the local superstitions - though both parties were suspicious of each other, they actually were not so different.

I wouldn't really bother with this book.

No comments:

Post a Comment