The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley.
Book description (from Amazon) -
Hartley, a frontline reporter who covered the atrocities of 1990s Africa, embarks on a journey to unlock the mysteries and secrets of his own family's 150-year-colonial legacy in Africa, and delivers a beautiful, sometimes harrowing memoir of intrepid young men cut down in their prime, of forbidden love and its fatal consequences, and of family and history, and the collision of cultures that defined them both.
My thoughts -
During the term time I find it hard to get into books, however I read this African memoir in a couple of weeks. It has always been on my list, as 'essential Africa reading' and it deserved its spot there.
Hartley jumps back and forth in time and countries, from his own recent history as a journalist, to that of his colonial family and to a discovery he made (diaries of a dear friend of his father's, Davey) and his journey into Davey's past in Arabia.
I didn't find Hartley a particularly likeable person, but his writing is beautiful, honest, powerful and at times (especially when he was in Rwanda) harrowing-I was in tears reading sections of The Zanzibar Chest. At first I was drawn more to the stories of Hartley's interesting colonial family history and his journey to Davey's past, opposed to the stories of Hartley's Africa, which were woven amongst them throughout. But it was the latter, Hartley's experiences as a journalist in East Africa, that I ended up enjoying more. Stories of experiences showing the rawness of Africa, but written in a way that shows faith, not in a 'hopeless nation' kind of way. Africa is Hartley's home and heart. The only negative thing I have to say, is that I feel that he could have used his stories in this one book, to write a small handful.
I would recommend this book to anybody who is has journeyed to Africa or would like to, from the comfort of their bed.