'Beautifully written...a book alive with the sights and scents of Africa.' -- Sally Magnusson 'This is a fascinating and revealing book. It skilfully combines a fresh account of Mary Livingstone with wonderful evocations by Julie Davidson of her travels in the heart of today's Africa in search of the places and peoples touched by Mary's life and death.' -- Professor Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh 'Mary Livingstone - Dr Livingstone's neglected wife - richly deserves to be remembered. Not enough material exists for a full biography, but Julie Davidson has skilfully interwoven her own adventurous travels in modern Africa with a record of Mary's journeys, as well as all the known facts of her life, her surviving letters, the places where she lived and the later history of her family in and out of Africa. The result is a haunting and insightful voyage around a truly remarkable person who gave birth in the Kalahari and was the first white woman to reach the Upper Zambezi valley.' -- Tim Jeal, David Livingstone biographer 'I was swept away by it.' -- Neal Ascherson 'A truly absorbing extraordinary journey, beautifully written. Mary Livingstone deserves this book.' -- Kirsty Wark 'Julie Davidson ... has created in this remarkable work of historical and geographical reflection a fascinating picture of a remarkable life. I find the resulting story very moving. It is moving because it gets under the skin of a beguiling part of the world that so often claims the hearts of those who engage with it. It is moving, too, because it is sensitive to the spirituality that one finds in that part of Africa and that is so deeply affecting. This book achieves a real understanding of that spirituality without in any way romanticizing or sentimentalizing it. When she eventually found Mary Livingstone's grave, Julie Davidson laid four small flowers upon it. In this lovely memoir, she lays on that lonely grave more flowers yet.' -- Alexander McCall Smith 'The fate of Mary Moffat, resurrected and explored in this wonderfully rich book , was to marry David Livingstone. Julie Davidson asks whether this was an opening to happiness or the beginning of a long ordeal of exploitation and neglect which only ended with her early death on the banks of the Zambezi. Livingstone saw 'a little, thick, black-haired girl, sturdy and all I want'. Others saw only a heavy, hard-working, uncommunicative woman - 'a queer piece of furniture'. It's Julie Davidson's achievement to bring her into the light and out of the fog of disparagement by her husband's adorers. She reveals somebody of powerful feelings, not always suppressed. Mary was strong enough to endure the death of children and the miseries of missionary life in the remote African bush and yet vulnerable to depths of depression and self-abandonment when left on her own with the children. Another writer said that 'she had no choices, only situations'. Davidson speaks of Mary's 'morbid dependence' on her husband, who left her behind for years at a time as he headed further into the unknown. And yet the author cleverly shows that behind the grim toil and the resentments, the pair concealed private delight: jokes, pranks and clownings, and - it would appear - plenty of sex. What makes this book such compelling reading is that it plaits two strands together: Mary's biography and Julie Davidson's own pilgrimages to seek that life, journeys at once merry and learned, across that immense and empty landscape of south-western Africa. It's a place she knows well. To read Davidson on lions, ( beasts she has much knowledge of,) or on trackless bush or rivers run dry or the grunting of eagle owls in the night is to be brought close to Mary and David Livingstone. Davidson shows that Mary did not make her self a nothing by giving up everything for her man. Seldom understood, no communicator but no mere victim either, this woman fought through her 'situations' and tried to shape her own world. ' -- Neal Ascherson 'This is a marvelous study of a forgotten woman. I greatly admire Julie Davidson's wide reading, extensive travel, and scrupulous research. Justice for Mrs Livingstone at last, and an immensely satisfying book. ' -- Paul Theroux 'This volume knows its limits, but when the facts run out, Davidson wisely inserts stories of her own exciting journeys in search of Mary's deeds. Here we encounter the author's profound love for her subject and Africa. Davidson travelled to Mary's grave on the banks of the Zambezi and laid down a few flowers. Some might say Mary deserved a dozen bouquets, but I found Davidson's gentle, heartfelt tribute both touching and appropriate. I felt much the same about this wonderful book.' -- The Herald 'In truth, we cannot know, but Davidson's portrait of Livingstone is not entirely unsympathetic. If he was impulsive, ambitious, selfish, he was also idealistic, and could be kind. He was no hero, but no monster either. And his wife, while strong, steady, courageous, was no angel. Both emerge from this book as complex and contradictory, in other words, real, messy, fallible human beings. In that sense, this book honours both of them.' -- Scottish Review of Books
About the Author
JULIE DAVIDSON's varied and award-winning career in journalism, includes work for The Times, Observer, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Aberdeen Press & Journal, The Scotsman, The Herald (Glasgow), Cosmopolitan and House & Garden. Winner of 5 Scottish Press Awards, she was a TV presenter and has won several awards for travel writing.