One to fox the Faber marketing department, perhaps - defiantly planted in the middle of a triangle whose three points are The Novel, Biography and Travel Writing - this is a great book, and all the more exciting for breaking out of any category you try and put it in.
Sheers is fortunate to have uncovered as interesting an ancestor as Arthur Cripps, a poet and radical missionary to Zimbabwe in the early years of the 20th century. The beauty of The Dust Diaries, though, is that he's extrapolated and expanded the sketchy information previously available about Cripps into a spell-binding narrative. By turns celebratory and mourning - awash with fury, brimful of joy - The Dust Diaries is a necessary book about Zimbabwe, its history and its present. A book about one individual whose extraordinary influence, there and then, will resonate powerfully here and now, about Sheers himself, and about us - and how we find ourselves, and place ourselves, in our world.
The film rights must be on the table by now. Read this, before they turn it into a film.
This reader - the happy owner of an uncorrected proof copy (sorry, Faber) - was entranced. Really pleased to be among the first to read it. Ace.