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5.0 out of 5 stars Universal Bonds,
This review is from: Bride Price (Kindle Edition)Universal Bonds, November 17, 2013
By Margaret Sutherland
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This review is from: Bride Price (Kindle Edition)
The reader of this absorbing story will experience curiosity, apprehension, delight at the joy of a betrothal and horror at the unnatural death of the villainous Kuloni Nkese. Living and working in the primitive village of Inkwiti in former Zaire, the author must engage in psychological warfare with an evil man who comes to buy his foster daughter, Abele. His dilemma is to decide on an honourable bride price that his antagonist will refuse to pay. The story escalates into violence, magic and mystery, always recounted in smooth, authentic prose that convinces us this is no fantasy. It really happened. The author was fortunately raised in Africa and is able to adjust to the village life, almost as one of its sons. Arriving there on a clean water project with only a goatskin bag for his possessions, he is told, 'You will do well with these people then...for they have as little as you and they have all they want.' This is a work of history that taps the common bonds that unite all people regardless of race and custom.
4.0 out of 5 stars A story about a continent that's both hell and paradise,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)Africa is a huge and densely populated continent. While it's known as the "oldest inhabited territory on Earth," most Westerners might think of it as merely a faraway land posing a high risk to international travelers. In most instances, that is probably so--Africa has had it's fair share of drought, disease, famine, corruption, military dictatorships and wars. But when it comes to rich fauna and flora, diverse tribal cultures and languages, exquisite landscapes and mysterious beliefs, Africa is paradise.
As someone who grew up in South Africa, I'm sad that I've only touched lightly on all this magic since the potential to engage with the heart of my country was screwed up by the sociopolitical climate of the time. That's why I'm so thankful for writers like Ian Mathie. In his memoir, Bride Price, the author transports his readers to an enigmatic part of Africa--Zaire, now the Democratic (irony, real not literary) Republic of the Congo--to learn more about a bygone era. At the high risk of ancestral customs being forgotten, this book is a valuable contribution to African history.
Mathie's story is nail-bitingly compelling and his writing is superb. Although you never doubt how the author feels about himself and his involvement in this saga, he allows the focus to fall on the rich cast of characters and the bizarre events that shape his narrative, thus making his book a true altruistic work of art about people who deserve to be remember for their unique perspective on life. Whether you're interested in Africa or have a taste for the exotic, this book is for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories of the deep heart of Africa,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)Thank you, Ian Mathie, for returning me to Zaire, a place I fell in love with well before I ever visited there. Your experiences make true the saying that real life is stranger than fiction. I found your story compelling and heartwarming, despite the tragic tale that has subsequently been played out in that part of the world. Sorry, 'playing' is the wrong word because there is nothing pleasant about what has, and is, happening in Central Africa.
I can only say that your part in the lives of those you encountered has been generous and loving. You walked lightly within their culture while bringing relief in ways that must surely help. Your portrayal of their stories is well written and sensitive. I wont spoil the reading for others by talking about the content of Bride Price, but I recommend this book to anyone with a heart.
Well done, and I hope you continue to share your life experiences with us.
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)In many ways Ian Mathie's experiences in his memoir Bride Price reminds me of Indiana Jones, although there is no treasure involved. When Mathie opted to live in a remote jungle village in Zaire during the 1970s, he did so for the convenience of living on site as he taught the villagers to build filtered wells to ensure a supply of safe drinking water. His facility for picking up the language, thinking on the fly, and quickly adopting native customs served him well. They may also have led to the horrifying adventure he became involved in.
After a complex string of events, Mathie becomes the foster father for Abélé, a homeless girl who has returned to the village under conditions making it impossible for other families to take her in. She flowers under his guidance, and all seems well until the day Kuloni Nkese, an evil Party official from a nearby region arrives and demanding that Mathie set a bride price for Abélé, thinking himself crafty by invoking tribal tradition for the process. Mathie recognizes the danger and immediately seeks counsel from wise community leaders, but it's up to him to make a final decision that will deter Nkese and protect Abélé.
He knows that setting a price in money isn't the answer. Nkese will steal the money, and Mathie will lose respect for accepting it. He must and does set a bride price this dangerous fiend will not agree to pay, and I don't think you'll be surprised to learn that Abélé is kept safe from harm. The story does not end with the resolution of the bride price challenge. Several more factors come to light before the situation is fully resolved.
This inherently gripping story is made more so through Mathie's masterful writing. He begins the story with the arrival of Nkese and tension escalates rapidly. He maintains suspense by gradually interspersing details of incidents leading up to this situation. His remarkable skill for conveying the essence of characters further enhances the tale.
In my opinion, this book should be required reading in all high schools. Mathie does a remarkable job of portraying the complexity of the self-sufficient and seemingly simple lifestyle of these "primitive" people and demonstrating their piercing insight into human nature and rich relationships. His account of the shaman's powers borders on the fantastic, but by confessing his own bewilderment, he keeps it believable. As I traveled into the heart of the tribe along with him, I came to share his love for these people and feel a strong kinship with them. My heart feels larger as a result. Stories such as he shares are powerful stepping stones toward more global understanding and respect among all people, and I look forward to reading more of his work.
As much as I'd come to admire and respect the people he writes of, I was grief stricken while reading his epilogue describing the devastation that has swept Zaire since that time. Mathie may have won the battle for Abélé, but his people lost their war.
5.0 out of 5 stars Bride Price,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)With exotic landscapes, indigenous people and ancient customs borne of tribal history, Africa can beguile and unnerve visitors in equal measure.
Spiritual beliefs passed down through generations can seem primitive to those of us unfamiliar with their way of life, but not to author Ian Mathie who spent part of the 1970s working on water resource projects and staying in remote villages in deepest Africa.
While living in what was then known as Zaire, Ian Mathie became a foster father to a young orphaned girl who needed a home.
When a much-feared party official from a neighbouring village demanded that a Bride Price be set for the girl so he could take her as a wife, Mathie had to find a way to outwit the tyrannical suitor using only his wits, and a limited knowledge of local customs and traditions.
Bride Price is full of interesting characters and lovingly describes the people Mathie came to care for and documents their wonderfully pragmatic way of life, not to mention the odd gruesome practice.
5.0 out of 5 stars Bride Price - a fascinating insight into just one of the cultures of Africa,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)A truly evocative account of the culture of the forest people of what is now DR Congo. Having worked around Africa, including DR Congo, i could visualise the colours and detail of the people as they were so vividly described. A thrilling insight into what so few people are now able to experience; Africa as it was and untouched by the modern trappings of today. I look forward to reading man in a mud hut.
5.0 out of 5 stars Potent fruit of the forest,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)This book tells the reader who has never been to Africa - who has no personal experience of Zaire, or its people, or its history - a great deal. It is a simple story, but constructed with a host of fascinating and complex ingredients, least of which not being the location, with its smells, movement, and noises; its strange fauna, and fast growing and swiftly encroaching flora. Its vibrant people, with all their human strengths and foibles. It takes the reader there, unaware that the simple story is intensively potent, and full of the potential to impress itself indelibly on the memory.
Readers have two memory caches, it seems: one for ordinary life and procedures, another for what is read, ingested through the narratives of others. There are rich and vibrant places to visit, fascinating people to know, and valuable life lessons to learn. There are such complex life stories and histories of places to witness, far away from the bland and predictable suburbs of the world's cities. How little we know of the real world.
This is narrative non-fiction at its best: personal experience told in a self-effacing way, a way that brings to life a Zaire during President Mobutu's reign. A Zaire whose village life thrums with vibrant, colourful and very meaningful life: rituals, usage and customs to be marvelled at for their logical simplicity, for their human complexity.
This is narrative non-fiction that tells us much more about the author than he probably would like revealed, but it is manifest in each line: such sensitivity. Such capacity to take on - without fear, without concept of threat to his own customs, language, usage, or personal habituation - the entire character of a village and become one of its best loved and most respected members. By enabling adopted daughter Abélé's acceptance, his own is assured, but it is not intentional or planned. It is utterly altruistic and generous. The friendship and respect of the Akuamba Kau is not earned lightly: it is neither a tourist nor a mere chance passer-through who receives the secret fruit of this forest.
There are surprises that could seem harrowing, and a growing understanding that the spiritual life of the forest is not to be taken as quasi-fictional. And then there is the end: an emotional one, which moves the reader to tears. What befalls this village in the rain forest? How does its fate affect the light-skinned man who tended its water supply, and the delicate relationship he tried to safeguard for the future of one of its own?
5.0 out of 5 stars Bride Price by Ian Mathie,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)Having worked in Africa and come across the traditional practice whereby a suitor makes a compensatory payment to the parents for their daughter's hand in marriage, often in the form of a number of cows,I was puzzled that anyone could make this the theme of a whole book. In 'Bride Price', Ian Mathie has done just that and accomplished the task brilliantly in a book full of interest and pathos.
Working as a British government rural development officer among forest dwellers in a remote area of Zaire at the time of President Mobutu, a strange sequence of events sees Ian Mathie gain acceptance as a member of a village community by voluntarily submitting himself to their demanding rite of passage. This becomes the precursor to a request that he fathers a young teenage orphan as his own daughter and then being approached by a brutal local politician to set a bride price for the girl, using the convention to acquire her for his wife, simply to demonstrate his power against the role of the British aid officer.
As the tale is told we are introduced to a kaleidoscope of characters embracing heroes, villains, wise elders and witch doctors described with great empathy and passion. The reader is taken on a colourful journey into the humane culture of a small community in Africa before it is disrupted by the passage of wider conflicts and war.
In this book Ian Mathie offers detailed observations of village life in the manner of an anthropologist which are described with lyrical beauty and insight. Yet at the same time this documentary record of his actual experiences as a young agricultural officer reads like a novel - a difficult combination which he achieves with ease. The story is fascinating and at times unfolds dramatically like a thriller. I look forward to reading the other three books in his series of African memoirs.
Gerard G Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant true story of suspense in Africa.,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)An amazing story of a crisis in the life of an African village, told from the inside - and best of all, it's all true. A real cliffhanger - how will author Ian Mathie set a bride price for his 13 year-old daughter, fostered from the village, in a way that is acceptable to tradition but still avoids her falling into the hands of the local bully-boy?
On the way we effortlessly learn huge amounts about life and society in a Zaire village in the 70s, and meet some remarkable characters including the village's spirital adviser, who somehow appears whenever he is needed, the charming young woman adopted by Ian, and the truly repellent man who wishes to claim her as a bride.
This true story is told in way that compares with the most well-crafted fiction. I stayed up late reading this for three nights, and went on to read his book of excellent short stories, The Man of Passage.
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read,
This review is from: Bride Price (Paperback)Bride Price
Ian Mathie brings this true story to life and draws the reader in with detail and emotion, in a fast paced easy to read style. With descriptions of the traditions and way of life in a 1970's African village, the book is both interesting on a factual level and a compelling read on an emotional level. I genuinely couldn't put the book down and had to discover the outcome of the heart stopping situation in which Ian found himself.
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Bride Price by Ian Mathie (Paperback - 31 Jan 2011)