This novel is written by one of France'sbest known contemporary authors, who won the Prix Renaudot prize for his first novel. It is translated from French by Alison Anderson, and is the story of a youth who travels to Africa in 1948 with his Italian mother to join his English father whom he has never met. The boy Fintan and his mother Maria Luisa, whom he calls Maou affectionately, set sail on their ship Surabaya, enjoying the ?intensely blue, almost violet? of the sky and the sea. He feels sad at leaving his old home which would never ?be as before?.
He is unable to sleep on the first night at sea. He remembers leaving behind his grandmother and feels a pain as he wants to shout out, ?I don'twant to go to Africa? and leave France.
In the Bay of Takoradu, Maou contacts fever and becomes delirious, making Fintan wonder when they would reach Onitsha and meet his father Geoffroy Allen. On April 13, 1948, the ship reaches Port Harcourt where Fintan and Maou are received by Geoffroy who takes them in his Ford car to Onitsha. They reach their new home on a small hill overlooking a river. Both Fintan and Maou experience fright and Maou finds that ?the happiness of which she had dreamt in the deck of the Surabaya did not exist here.? Her fear is compounded to notice Fintan look at his father ?full of wariness and instinctive hatred? and with Geoffroy'scold anger mounting each time Fintan defies him.
To release his boiling temper at his father, one day, Fintan walks out of the house and reaches far where he comes across termitaries. He picks up a stick and strikes viciously at the termites? nests, one after another. He befriends a local boy Bony. One day, Geoffroy takes Maou to the DO'shouse where Maou, while standing on the terrace, notices with astonishment chained men cross the garden, shovels on their shoulders and rings around their ankles pulled on the chain.
The book relives the harsh realities in the heartland of Africa where a young boy gives vent to his outrage at the racism and colonialism practiced in the Africa of 1948. A moving saga, reminding the reader of what the situation must have been like in India before Independence.
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