by Jakob Ejersbo
Release date (UK): 24th of November 2011
Summary: For the vagabond pack of ex-pat Europeans, Indian, Tanzanians and wealthy Africans at Moshi's International School, it's all about getting high, getting drunk and getting laid. Their parents - drug dealers, mercenaries and farmers gone to seed - are too dead inside to give a damn.I started reading this not knowing what to expect but I wasn't expecting to love the book. But I loved it (mostly).
Samantha has lived in Tanzania since she was three years old. Her parents run an exclusive travel lodge and are too absorbed by their own affairs to pay much attention to their daughter. The mother sips expat gin and tonics under the midday sun; the father, a former S.A.S. officer turned mercenary, busies himself with dead end coup d'etats and clandestine love affairs with local women.
Samantha learns quickly that affection comes at a premium, at a price she is always willing to pay, however shallow and transitory the experience, however hollow the love on offer. Before long, her reputation precedes her, losing her friends as quickly as it gains her admirers
To explain the "mostly" part: I hated the ending. Loathed it. I think it was awful, rushed, didn't fit in with the rest of the book and was one of those terrible endings that leave you with a, "Wait, that's it?" type of feeling - like you've read this whole book, read the character go through all of these things and in the end, there's really no closure or sense that anything was resolved.
And that part I hated? It was seriously like five pages max, right at the very end - I loved the rest (well, there was one scene with cruelty to a cat that I hated too but in a different way to the ending - the end felt like a writing fail, the cat thing was just that I am strongly against animal cruelty), so for the rest of my review when I'm being positive, I'm talking about everything but the ending because if I judge it as a whole then my review will just get too negative because of how much I hated the end.
The main character is a teenager, the story is about her life from about aged 15 until she's 18, but the content of the book is very adult (with her showing her age and immaturity quite a lot), it's unsugarcoated and uncensored (which I loved). I didn't always like Samantha, I actually kind of hated her sometimes, but she never bored me and I was hooked on the story from the start.
If you like books with, well, a typical plot that has a set beginning and middle and end then this book maybe won't be for you - it didn't feel like reading a book like that, it felt more like one of those stories that is like, "Okay, here is the character and this is their life when they were aged X to Y" showing highlights from their life and it had a very real and raw feel to it because of that.
The writing...in the beginning, it took some getting used to and I'm not sure why. I wasn't sure if I loved the writing or hated it but once I was into the story, I couldn't put it down and it's the kind of book that you remember and the way it's written is one of the things that you remember, it's kind of distinctive. But it's weird - I didn't exactly empathize with Samantha or the other characters, there was always a distance between me and them and I was caught up in their story but not the emotions...the way it's written, it's so in-the-moment of Samantha's thoughts that we never really get to properly know her or the other characters or figure them out (it's difficult to explain)...I don't mean that as a negative, it's just something about the book that just - is. And it was one of the things that made the writing distinctive.
I can't really pin point why I loved the book (my attempts above kind of failed), I just know that I was hooked from start to finish. Maybe it was how original it felt or the culture thing - I've never read another book set there or like this one (the culture has the same kind of fascination factor that books like A Thousand Splendid Suns and Anna and the French Kiss have).
In the end, my overall verdict was that I loved the book (although I really, really wish the ending was different - it felt like a different story; like a real and raw and grounded story turned into something that would've fit in more with a supernatural crime novel).
I would not have wanted to read the book based on the summary and the cover would not have caught my attention at all, it really isn't a book I would've read on my own so I'm really glad I was sent it to review because I'm happy I read it, it was awesome and you should check it out.
And I think that's enough rambling for one review. This one really is difficult to review.