Every so often, you read a book which has the ability to describe something so well you feel as though you've been there and witnessed it for yourself. In her second book, Aminatta Forna shares a remarkably powerful and personal story of the idealism, ambition and shattering loss and heartbreak that comes with the struggle for political freedom.
Forna describes in startling detail the life of her father, Mohamed, the son of a village chief in his native Sierra Leone, who went on to study medicine in Britain and then became highly active in the politics of his country. Her father's passion for his cause led to the deterioration of his family life and his medical career. His fight against political corruption, while winning him public support ultimately cost him his freedom and later his life.
Aminatta Forna's detailing of "the first ten years of my life and the last ten years of his" is remarkably clear and vivid. Her memories stand out with great clarity given that she was so young when the events she describes took place.
The political history of her father's country is narrated in amazing detail and her depth of knowledge and research is impressive. She has obviously put a lot of time and effort into this book; even more than telling the heroic and heartbreaking story of her father's life, this is, above all, a labour of love.
The story is quite slow-moving and a lot of detailed history is injected here and there but Forna's language is so rich that it begs to be savoured. Therein lies the difficulty with this book though: it takes time to digest - but then all the great books do.
Definitely worth reading for the way it intertwines a very political story with a very personal one and for its detailing of a tale of remarkable idealism and independence.