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Assegai

by Wilbur Smith

     

Young Leon Courtney is not fond of being a soldier, and yearns to be a professional big game hunter leading safaris.††When an incident causes him to get into serious trouble with his superiors, he gets the chance to do just that.††Several years later, on the brink of the First World War, he has another opportunity to make his mark finding out what German industrialist Graf Otto von Meerbach is up to.†† However, he didn't count on falling in love with the industrialist's beautiful mistress Eva.

It is easy to see why this phenomenally successful author has such a reputation for being an excellent storyteller.††Even when nothing much was happening, my eyes remained rooted to the page, even though this is not a particularly quick read either because of the wealth of description and information.†† It is not an easy task these days to make your protagonist a big game hunter, but Smith has managed to do it.††Surely one of the things that gives verisimilitude to a historical novel is the authorís ability to create characters who seem of their time rather than ours; Leon fits the bill.††Smith shows the bravery and skill required to be a successful hunter, and manages to convey some of the excitement and drama that made people addicted to the chase.††What this novel lacks is cohesion, and the story outlined on the cover about von Meerbach and the impending war only takes up less than a fifth of the novelís length.††The rest is the story of Leonís life in Africa, his military forays, Masai friends, and particularly his safaris, both with real people such as Kermit Roosevelt, and fictitious ones such as a kinky German princess.††There is a faint supernatural whiff, a la Rider Haggard, with the invariably true predictions of a Masai witch doctor, which serves to remind the reader that the events are taking place somewhere special and remote where anything can happen.††I was left with an impression that Smith certainly knows Kenya and can impart this to the reader, but feeling as if I had read a biography of a great white hunter rather than a novel.

The Book

Macmillan UK
3 April 2009
Hardback
0230529208 / 9780230529205
Historical Fiction / 1906-13 Kenya
More at Amazon.com US || UK
Excerpt
NOTE: Some sex and violence

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2009
NOTE:
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