308pp., paperback, London (2019) 2020
The story of the 6 men and women who carried the body of the explorer David Livingstone for 1,500 miles so that he could be taken by sea to his own country to be buried. The journey is led by Halima, Livingstone’s cook, and three of his most devoted servants: Jacob, Chuma and Susi.
“It’s a captivating premise for a novel that despite its Faulknerian DNA is entirely Gappah’s own ... Some of Wainwright’s sections are marvels of verisimilitude ... Counterbalancing this mimetic quality, Halima’s observations sweep towards an aching lyricism ... What the novel achieves through the intersection of these jostling narratives is a stripping back of Livingstone’s legacy ... [An] ambitious, meticulously researched work [with] a critical understanding of the usefulness of fiction for filling in history’s gaps.” Sara Collins, Guardian
Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe. She is the author of The Book of Memory and the short story collections Rotten Row and An Elegy for Easterly, which won the 2009 Guardian First Book Prize.