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Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles Hardcover – 1 Sep 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd; First Edition edition (1 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846271541
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846271540
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 23.8 x 5.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A remarkable, ground-breaking achievement, capturing the complex texture of a rapidly changing continent. It is also terribly moving' -- Independent

'A wise, compassionate and understanding account of Africa, written by a man who has glimpsed deeper truths about the continent' -- The Times

'Dowden maintains the reader's interest by skilfully interviewing his research into stories of myriad encounters with Africans rich and poor' -- Economist

'Few journalists have travelled in Africa so widely for so long and few can match his indefatigable quest for knowledge' -- Literary Review

'This book is an inspiring gift of hope about a continent that never ceases to surprise'
-- The Times

Review

'A remarkable, ground-breaking achievement, capturing the complex texture of a rapidly changing continent. It is also terribly moving'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By David Kobia on 19 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is almost 600 pages long, and still feels like an abridged account of Africa. I actually thought it was pretty bold to call the book 'Africa' - like a little boy with a toy gun calling himself a cowboy, so I approached the book expecting to disparage it immediately. Having grown up in some of the countries written about in the book, I realized Dowden had actually lived through it enough to warrant telling the tale. I believe this book far outranks many of the history books on Africa, and should be required reading for all high school kids.

Post colonial Africa evokes different types of emotions depending on which side of the railway line you grew up on, so its easy to understand why descendants of the colonialists themselves might not find this an easy read. Dowden places a great deal of the blame for Africa's woes squarely on them and other factors like foreign aid. My opinion is biased because I tend to agree.

Those without any type of bias will find the book extremely fascinating. Discovering Africa through Dowden has left me feeling that I should make the same commitment and re-discover the beautiful continent of Africa.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Tembo on 19 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book should be required reading for anyone with an interest in Africa. The author has a profound understanding, through many years of experience, of what makes Africa tick. His writing is underscored by an evident personal commitment and compassion for the continent and its inhabitants. Africa is at a cross roads in its development following the momentous developments at the end of the last century and with a new, powerful influence from Asia and China in particular. The old practices which have led to rampant corruption might at last be under threat with the emergence of a new middle class who understand the need for change for the betterment of their countries. Time will tell but this book gives cause for cautious optimism although the road ahead is a long one. Don't hesitate, read it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marie Lefebvre on 28 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
As an African myself, I found this book very brutal and honest. Richard managed to give a brief straight to the point summary on every chapter, allowing the reader to understand fully the past and present issues affecting different parts of Africa. Richard takes the reader through his African journey exactly how he saw things happening in the last 30 years working in Africa. Sometimes I felt angry reading the book but I agreed on almost everything written he wrote. I highly recommend the book for those who wants to understand of what Africa is all about: from famine, war, music, faith, strong communities, witchcraft to corrupted leaders with billions dollars, this book is a must have.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gitau Githinji on 4 May 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Dowden suffered the misfortune of being held responsible for an ill-advised cover of "The Economist" about a decade ago. The cover depicted a teenage African boy wielding a heavy weapon and suggested that the entire continent was a lost cause.

Dowden has redeemed himself by writing this excellent book. It does not pretend to be anything more than an introduction to a continent in which he has spent much time and knows intimately. Conscious of being accused of taking too broad a brush to a vast and very varied continent, Dowden explains in the book that his audience is not the Africa veteran; rather, it is the dismissive European who, like that stupid "The Economist" cover, thinks of Africa as a place beyond redemption.

This was a very difficult balancing act to perform and I congratulate Mr Dowden on having done a marvellous job. Now what he must do is a Winston Churchill: break it all up and write every last detail, there's a good chap, Richard!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nala Scoorb on 25 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is simply gripping and illuminates both the miseries and joy of the wonderful continent of Africa: all its ambiguities and complexities. Having travelled many times, its a perfect account and explanation of all the unseen political and socioeconomic things that effect what you observe, but have no real explanation for when in any country there. For me it gives great hope that eventually African countries will be able to break away from the colonialism of the past and make there own peace in the their own African way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Taylor on 10 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Dowden does understand the nature of Africa and you can really sense his passion for the continent. I must admit learning the politics and history of some countries can be muddled and often irrelevent, looking at wikipedia can be helpful but doesn't exactly evoke integrity? Dowden gives snippets of personal stories, history and importantly his own assessments of past and future Africa. It is a long book but in a sense it could be longer, the treasure of it all is how he manages to inform you so well in so little time!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sara B. on 15 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Richard Dowden, before taking up the post for the Economist, has been for many years the Africa Editor of the Independent. I was very curious to read his work and I have found, first of all, the immense love he feels for the continent! According to me this is important... he can transmit passion to the reader. I believe the author has a profound and intimate understanding of the topics he writes about thanks to the many years he has spent in Africa... some of his points are arguable but for sure give rise to your brain to think.

I would recommend this book as it is updated, easy to read and very positive! After reading it, you will have a very different picture of Africa, compared to what you generally see on the media (often portrayed, sometimes by some aid agencies, as a pitiable place of poverty). It is a message of hope, optimism (but not the blind one!) and richness. Anyway I was expecting more on the "ordinary miracles" stated on the title! However, in general, I really like it... I have found some parts very moving, and loved the chapter on the "positive positive women".
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