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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
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...
Published on 17 Dec 2002 by A. Ross

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clever depiction of a man unable to face reality.
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...
Published on 19 Jan 1999


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clever depiction of a man unable to face reality., 19 Jan 1999
By A Customer
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 (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Last King of Scotland (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.
Speaking oh which, Fodden went to great lengths in researching this novel, interviewing a wide range of people who witnessed Amin's reign. Alas, the Saudi government wouldn't grant him permission to interview Amin, who is still alive and living on a Saudi pension in Jeddah. Garrigan is loosely modeled on Bob Astles, a British WW2 veteran who somehow became Amin's closest advisor. Altogether a very good read, regrettably Fodden's next two books apparently don't live up to this one.
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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
This review is from: The Last King of Scotland (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
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
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Me (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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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
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`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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favourite book this year, 4 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Last King of Scotland (Paperback)
This book sat in my 'to read' pile for ages, and then once i'd opened it i couldn't put it down. By page 17 I had decided it would be my book of the year!

What I loved about it was how well the author knows Uganda. It is absolutely spot on, the dialogue, the description, everything. I was completely transported and transfixed.

I had seen the film already - and do really like the film - but the book was a whole other level. For anyone who has ever been to Uganda, a must read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read for a long time, 1 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Last King of Scotland (Paperback)
Its hard to tell whether this is truth or fiction. The Amin stories definitely fall into that "if someone made it up - you wouldn't believe it" category. Foden keeps the story moving along and gets the reader to empathise, if not sympathise, with the plight of the main character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining account of a despotic tyrant with charisma, 23 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This fictional account of Idi Amin's personal physician had me interested from the first sentence. A very believable account of a young doctor (Nicholas Garrigan) encountering tropical medicine for the first time in the revolutionary environment of Uganda provided a wealth of interesting narrative. However ,there is much more to the book than this. As the plot develops, the characters take over and dominate. Garrigan's feelings of oppression , fear and powerlessness mount inexorably throughout . The characterisation of Amin , firstly charismatic,bizarre,amusing, but gradually giving way to a true sensation of evil is expertly handled. The distressed and confused emotions generated by the role of caring physician to a despicable tyrant are well expressed and serve to keep the readers interest throughout.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So real, at times I thought I was there!, 9 April 2007
By 
M. G. Gilbert (Worcester, GB) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
After seeing all the hype about the film after the film awards, I bought the book to see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad I did, this is easily the best book I have read this year. I was gripped by the first chapter, but I must admit the next few chapters were a bit slow and I was waiting, albeit with trepidation, for something to happen. I can remember when Idi Amin came to power, and the horrifying regime over which he presided, so I knew there would be times when Dr Garrigan would be terrified and revolted by the actions of his employer. When it did happen, and Dr Garrigan was offered the opportunity to be Amin's personal doctor, I was almost shouting "Don't do it!" into the book.

I found the book very easy to read, and yet I was drawn into the narrative in such a way that I often felt that I was actually there sharing the experience. The depiction of Amin is so realistic and believeable, that I felt embarassed along with his audience whenever he comes out with his bizzare and fanciful claims. The part where he threatens Dr Garrigan is so frightening that I was almost gasping for breath.

Strangely, although I know that Amin was a monster and did dreadful harm to the people of Uganda, his massive personality was brought out so well that by the end of the book, I was beginning to see why Dr Garrigan actually liked him. However, I was relieved that Amin's demise was well described, so that I the reader, could escape.

This is a very good book, well worth five stars.
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The Last King of Scotland
The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden (Paperback - 28 Jan 1999)
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