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The Last King of Scotland
 
 

The Last King of Scotland [Kindle Edition]

Giles Foden
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

No, we're not talking Bonnie Prince Charlie here. The title character of Giles Foden's debut novel, The Last King of Scotland, is none other than Idi Amin, the former dictator of Uganda. Told from the viewpoint of Nicholas Garrigan, Amin's personal physician, the novel chronicles the hell that was Uganda in the 1970s. Garrigan, the only son of a Scots Presbyterian minister, finds himself far away from Fossiemuir when he accepts a post with the Ministry of Health in Uganda. His arrival in Kampala coincides with the coup that leads to President Obote's overthrow and Idi Amin Dada's ascendancy to power. Garrigan spends only a few days in the capital city, however, before heading out to his assignment in the bush. But a freak traffic accident involving Amin's sports car and a cow eventually brings the good doctor into the dictator's orbit; a few months later, Garrigan is recalled from his rural hospital and named personal physician to the president. Soon enough, Garrigan finds himself caught between his duty to his patient and growing pressure from his own government to help them control Amin.

From Nicholas Garrigan's catbird seat, Foden guides us through the horrors of Amin's Uganda. It would be simple enough to make the dictator merely monstrous, but Foden defies expectation, rendering him appealing even as he terrifies. The doctor "couldn't help feeling awed by the sheer size of him and the way, even in those unelevated circumstances, he radiated a barely restrained energy...I felt--far from being the healer--that some kind of elemental force was seeping into me." And Garrigan makes a fine stand-in for Conrad's Marlow as he travels up a river of blood from Naiveté to horrified recognition of his own complicity. As if this weren't enough, Foden also treats us to a finely drawn portrait of Africa in all its natural, political, and social complexity. The Last King of Scotland makes for dark but compelling reading. --Alix Wilber, Amazon.com

Review

'A gripping tale of tropical corruption... This is a wonderful read, beautifully written, every description drenched with a sense of Africa.' --Spectator

'As convincing and terrifying a portrait of a capricious tyrant as I have ever read. Foden captures with absolute fidelity the fascination of a figure like Amin.' --Anthony Daniels, Evening Standard

'Catches to perfection Idi Amin's contradictory, murderous, playful, brutal, sentimental character.' --Former prime minister James Callaghan, Sunday Times

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 535 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375703314
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction (4 Sep 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI909K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #104,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Giles Foden was born in 1967 and spent his youth in Africa. Between 1990 and 2006 he worked as a journalist on the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian. In 1998 he published The Last King of Scotland, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award and was later made into a feature film. The author of three other novels and also a work of narrative non-fiction, in 2007 he was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He lives in Norfolk.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The focus of the novel is the indecision of the central character. It is a study of a man whose naivete and weakness lead him to rationalise the appalling atrocities going on around him. Foden's concern is to chart Garrigan's moral slide as his involvement with Amin deepens, and he does not spend time describing the horrors that took place, largely leaving them implicit, like haunting shadows. The effect is to draw the reader into Garrigan's mind, and the reader has to be careful to remember the crimes committed by the regime that initially Garrigan so calmly accepts. The frightening thing about Foden's writing is the firm belief that Garrigan is not especially weak, or bad, or prone to suggestion. On the contrary, he is very ordinary, and so are we all.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conrad meets Boyd Uptown for a Showdown 17 Dec 2002
By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Idi Amin's bizarre and brutal eight years of dictatorship in Uganda are the setting for this assured debut. The narrator is Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor who arrives in Uganda for a contract job at the same time as Amin's 1971 coup. The book is his recollection of his two years in a small town clinic and six years as Amin's personal doctor in Kampala. His story continues the Conradian tradition of the European man who comes to Africa and becomes transformed through his contact with evil. Amin is Garrigan's Kurtz, and while the doctor and other expats generally turn a blind eye to the truckloads of political prisoners being taken to the countryside to be executed, eventually Garrigan is dragged face to face with Amin's horror.
Of course this isn't pure Conrad, rather it's cut with a bit of William Boyd, another Englishman writer who's written compelling fiction about modern Africa and the legacy of colonial rule. For the horror here isn't that Garrigan begins to understand Amin (after all who could really hope to understand a man of Amin's awesome eccentricity), but begins to like him in an odd way. And it's not that the doctor is a weak character, he's actually remarkably average, and thus very much like ourselves. The reader is unable to to find solace in making easy smug judgments about Garrigan's gradual moral slide as he sucked more and more into Amin's confidence and makes small compromises with himself. Amin is a great character in his own right, lurching from buffoonery to gluttony to sly cunning to sheer incomprehensibility at the drop of a hat. Of course Fodden had a lot to work with, as many of Amin's deeds and speeches are classic examples of truth really being stranger than fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An awesome, gruesome achievement. 23 Feb 2000
Format:Paperback
I found this book quite by chance and was stunned by its originality. Foden is particularly good at conveying the messy moral dilemmas of post-liberation Africa. The true-life horrors of life in Uganda under Amin, as described in the book, are shocking; but more disturbing by far is the narrator's own mental and moral decay in his position as Amin's personal physician. It's a familiar path: little lies, hesitancies and omissions all leading to bigger and more terrible compromises. It's not a comfortable read, but it is an amazing one. And Foden's best book by far.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 2 July 2007
By Fiona
Format:Paperback
This is a good and enjoyable read. Unfortunately I read it after seeing the film - and it is one of the few occasions when I will say that the movie was better then the book. Don't mistake me for saying the book is bad though - because I enjoyed it very much.

However, as the movie proved - Idi Amin, the crazy president of Uganda, was a by far more interesting character then the sympathetic idiot Nichollas Garrigan.

I don't wish to start a movie-book review so I shall try not to.

In the book, you really find yourself in Uganda with Garrigan. It is very immersingly written and believeable. The main character is not your usual hero whom you can sympathise with. In fact, he is a bit of a stupid prat. Never the less, you find yourself shaking your head and doubtlessly on your side. It is a fine balance.

I would not say I found any part of this book boring, it was totally enjoyable. However I think it was less about Idi Amin and more about silly white doctor guy getting himself into a situation he can't handle.

Very different from the movie, but still very good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling 13 Mar 2011
By Me
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly recommend this book. Fast paced (particularly after the scene has been set in the first 100 pages), gripping, thought provoking and ultimately a little disturbing (but not in a give you nightmares kind of way). This is one of those books that delivers the full out of body experience and makes you feel you have added something to your life from reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A review of 'The Last King of Scotland' 1 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback
`The Last King of Scotland' gives an insight into the madness surrounding the dictator Idi Amin during the most interesting period of Ugandan political history.

What separates this from the average political book is the degree of humanity that can be seen within the characters; Idi Amin is not portrayed as a two-dimensional pantomime monster, but a real person capable of kindness and cheer as well as anger and brutality.

All this is seen through the eyes of Scottish doctor Dr Nicholas Garrigan who befriends the controversial leader; taking him down a road which addresses the concept of power, corruption and morality, in one of the most beautiful and exciting landscapes in the world. It's not a struggle to feel empathy with Garrigan who is, to the credit of the author, a very realistic and believable character desperately trying to stay grounded in an increasingly dramatic and morbid situation.

Whilst the pace of the book is often slow, the several intense and frankly shocking plot twists are more than rewarding enough to keep you going through the dry spells. Those who are normally intimidated by the thought of reading a novel on such a `heavy' subject shouldn't be put off as there is also a dry humor to be found. However some of the imagery may be slightly shocking and disturbing, so some book lovers should stay away if that's not their cup of tea

Arguably, most people will have gained knowledge of this novel through the recent film of the same name. For those who enjoyed the film, there is a wealth of background character that can be gained from the novel making it a must read. For those who didn't enjoy the film, there is little that the novel is likely to offer as they are similar in both tone and delivery.

In conclusion, `Last King of Scotland' is successful because it is ultimately a stark and bold commentary on both humanity and the mechanisms of power such as politics.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars 'My life story...It is very exciting. Because, as you know, I am the...
As a female reader who doesn't 'do' war/ politics/ espionage, I wasn't sure I'd like this, but I really enjoyed it, especially the earlier part which others have criticized as... Read more
Published 5 hours ago by sally tarbox
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting!
First discovered this book due to the film. Good book although in some places can become rather confusing with so many people used throughout it. good overall.
Published 4 months ago by alicks scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid
An excellent book well written, about one intriguing dictator. I believe we need more stories like this. Read more
Published 11 months ago by bob
4.0 out of 5 stars Foden aims high
The Last King of Scotland

Giles Foden delves into the world of the notorious Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada and his well-known ruler ship over the African nation for 8... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Jack R
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the film
Watch the film, don't read the book. Its overlong and over-written. I can't help thinking that the book needed a good editor and would have been a good book if only it were half... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Diana Foster
4.0 out of 5 stars "He Who Dips his Finger in Honey Doesn't Dip Once."
People are, as a rule, quite lazy thinkers and for convenience we mentally pigeon-hole each other. Obviously, the reality of character is much more complex than simple dichotomies... Read more
Published on 21 April 2012 by Merlin's Owl
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last King of Scotland
When Scottish medical graduate Nicholas Garrigan accepted a Foreign Office posting to Uganda, he could not have imagined that he would end up as private physician to Idi Amin. Read more
Published on 10 April 2012 by Clare O'Beara
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour-de-force of a book
This is one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read. The story is gripping and reads like a real-life account of Idi Amin's personal physician. Read more
Published on 25 Oct 2010 by B. WARD
5.0 out of 5 stars Idiotic
An idiotic dictator but a wonderful story by Giles Foden. I love his writing. The first time I have come across a writer talking to me about himself:- "genital light" - why did I... Read more
Published on 15 May 2010 by Roger A. Powell
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great
Nowadays probably better known by the film adaptation of the same name, 'The Last King of Scotland' is a political thriller set in Uganda during the reign of the brutal dictator,... Read more
Published on 24 April 2010 by BookWorm
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