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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars26
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 29 July 1999
This book carefully interweaves its three elements, thriller, love story and tradgey and its central themes love, commitment (political and personal) and betrayal (political and personal). Its is commited but not preaching. Its prose is lyrical and evocative and its plot convincing. The historical period is a fascintating one and is brought to life. The role of the CIA in the killing of Patrice Lummumba Congolose nationalist leader is not as well known as it should be but although this is one focus of the book the centre piece is the love affair between James Giiispie and Ines Sabani and this is brough to life with insight and raw emotion. I took this book on holiday and had to finish it in one sitting. It throughly deserved the praise and awards. My only criticism would relate to the African characters who are well described but their inner thoughts are not adressed and the main perspective is of the Europeans. Having said that the racism of colonial rule and european attitudes is brilllantly crystallised I can also recommend Ronan Bennets other book The Second Prison the best fictional account of the war in Northern Ireland i have ever read.
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on 1 May 2000
A story of colonial mismanagenment and a true love story, beautifully written and terrifyingly real - all the characters are still with me. I was acutally involved in the evacuation of the Belgians from the Congo, acting as an interpreter for them in what was Salisbury, Rhodesia. I well rememhber the utter astonishment of the evacuees who could not believe what was happening to them, and I also remember following the disintegration of the Congo, the failure of the leaders etc, all of which is foreshadowed in this book.
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on 22 December 2000
...the book is about a apathetic, stranger's trip to Africa in the middle of upheaval. If the book lacks nuances of African culture it is because it is about an alien looking disinterestedly into this radically, different world. The book may be dense but is a cracking read that not only entertains but also makes you consider the selfishness behind caring, intelligent people's actions when lust, trust or situation cloud their judgement. It's well worth a pick up. I haven't recommended it to one person who hasn't thanked me for it.
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on 17 October 2005
I picked this up having enjoyed the marvellous 'Havoc in its Third Year' and was not disappointed. This novel has flaws and they are part of what makes its success. Gillespie the narrator is a confused Irishman and follows his love/lust to Africa to conquer her at the same time as decolonisation is taking place in the former Belgian Congo. Gillespie is indifferent to politics, part of his Northern Irish background (it is the 1960s and 'the troubles' are yet to begin) in contrast with Ines's passionate yet naive belief in the politics she encounters. The novel explores passion of various kinds, belief, cynicism, background and family and tries to get to the question about what makes people love and how they love. Why do I call it flawed? Because there are echoes of Brian Moore/Graham Greene here. This novel is flawed in the same way.....you can't get much better than that. I am going to read the other Bennett novels I can get my hands on - he is definitely one to watch!
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Bennett's prose is refreshingly prudent and yet at the same time astutely passionate. He succeeds in creating a convincingly textured world in which the machinations of love and politics are perceptively and painfully entwined, exploring their analogous rise and fall towards a bitter denouement. Utterly compelling and perpetually haunting.
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on 6 July 2009
Ronan Bennett writes in a very fast moving style, creating his characters with clarity, grit and conviction. This book is set in the time of the Congo Independence, it is a clever and thoroughly enjoyable combination of an extremely complex psychological love story and a political thriller which gives a very interesting amount of background information about that period of African history. Having myself at that time witnessed the exodus from the Congo of Belgians into 'Rhodesia' with all they could carry crammed onto their cars, I have always been interested in the background to this period. I would recommend The Catastrophist as a most enjoyable and informative page turner.
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on 8 October 2000
This novel was incredible. It molded the history of the Belgian Congo's independence with a heartbreaking romance between two people not destined to be together. I could not put this book down. I will be looking forward to reading Ronan Bennett's other works.
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on 31 January 2000
Ronan Bennett is a master storyteller and I wish that I could find more of his books in print. Set in the Congo prior to the country's independence from Belgium, it is about an Irishman, James Gillespie, who goes to the Congo to win back the love of his girlfriend, Ines. The politics, beaurocracy and the failure of his relationship results in a sad story but one of great depth and certainly one of the best books I have read.
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on 17 February 2013
The novel is set in the Congo in 1959-60. It recounts the rise and fall of Patrice Lumumba, portrayed as a genuine liberationist whose doom was perhaps inevitable in such a divided country. Many of the problems that beset Africa are recognised. The machinations of the Americans, represented by Mark Stipe, a CIA operative, segue into the other story in the novel. This is the fading love affair between the narrator, a middle-aged English novelist who keeps himself distant from ideals and political passions, and Ines, a journalist for L'Unita who embraces Lumumba's cause wholeheartedly. The author explores well issues of love and personal feelings when the time demands political commitment. The title is Ines' description of James as someone who always expects the worst. The book is an interesting contrast to Barbara Kingsolver'sThe Poisonwood Bible, set in the same place and period about an American missionary family.
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on 21 May 1999
An excellent book; a cross between Graeme Greene's 'The Quiet American' and Joseph Conrads 'Heart of Darkness'. The story of someone who loses a lover to another, set against a country that is going from independance to civil war. You can feel Gillespies pain and anguish, Ines's passion and Stipe's agenda. Worth buying.
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