88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Well I couldn't put it down...,
This review is from: Assegai (Hardcover)
Wilbur Smith's story of a young big game hunter captivates you from the opening pages with its distinguished, convincing and evocative descriptions of colonial Africa. Whether you have visited Africa or not, an enriching experience of the continent is in store as the author transports you to confrontations with the big five, altercations with rebels, and the ghostly visions from the hero, Leon Courtney's, past, present and future.
The book is a page turner not just for an well-conceived plot. As 'Assegai' demonstrates in every lucid description, Wilbur Smith is a genuine writer, and a stylist of distinction. The writing is a joy to read. The cultural details expand upon the plot and never seem tacked on. The novel illuminates a crucial juncture in early twentieth century history, the steep incline to the First World War, the problems and pitfalls of imperialism.
What is most impressive is the way in which Smith marshalls and orchestrates the structure of this plot and his characters. The way the novel segues from a straightforward action and suspense largely focussed on Masai rituals and customs, to a Western intrigue in which Courteney is essentially the outsider looking in on the west is seemless. This deepens the characterisation of Courtney and genuinely questions ideas of national identity.
I have a few issues with some of the characters (Snell is your archetypal pen-pushing underachiever with an axe to grind), and sometimes the portrayal of Africans and their deference to the physically and morally excellent Courtney is a bit too conventional, but what's important is their interrelationships and interiorirty, and these have a palapable veracity at their core.
If you're a fan of Smith work then this is another winner. For new readers, expect a well-orchestrated plot where the perspective and identity of the protagonist is adjusted by the uncontrollable events around him, either by supernatural fate or the growing, undeniable reality of war. Above all, expect good writing and an enveloping experience.