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The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Memoir Paperback – 12 Mar 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (12 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006531261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006531265
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘This is a book of quite extraordinary power and beauty. Aminatta Forna has excavated not only her memory but the hidden recesses of the heart.’ Fergal Keane

‘An extraordinary and gripping story…Aminatta Forna’s book glows with compassion. A modern classic, of which her courageous father would have been proud.’ Peter Gowin, author of ‘Mukiwa’

‘An engrossing account of pain, love and discovery that had the capacity not only to make me understand but also to move me to tears’ Gillian Slovo, author of ‘Every Secret Thing’

‘I had tears in my eyes almost the whole way through, although it is the least sentimental of books…Aminatta Forna manages, quite brilliantly, to evoke not only all the honour and pity that is in her family’s story, but its beauty and tenderness too.’ Katie Hickman, author of ‘Daughters of Britannia’

From the Publisher

A daughter's memoir of her father, her family, her country and a continent. 'A memoir to stand alongside Wild Swans… a book about love and the power to endure' Fergal Keane --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 14 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book for several reasons. Firstly the quality of the writing which captures the essence of an African childhood and beautifully portrays events through the eyes of a child, without loosing any of the journalistic rigour.
Secondly the sadness and the depth of the central story itself and the strength of mind it must have taken to revisit such a painful past, to seek out the truth.
It is a truly good read, I could not put it down, Even when I had finished I wondered about the impact of this story not only on one woman, but on a country.
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Format: Hardcover
A story of cultures clashing and blending. Beautifuly written by a talented writer who is a product of two of these cultures.
Dr. Forna, Aminetta's father, a surgeon from Sierra Leone, met and married her Scottish mother when studying in Aberdeen. Aminetta recalls an early childhood in Scotland as well as a later childhood in Sierra Leone. With a blend of tenderness and harsh reality she remembers the best and the worst of these experiences.
Characters once thought to be mean and threatening are recognised through more mature eyes to be simply those who thwarted a childhood insistence on having everything her own way. Scoundrels are recognised, but with a keen insight into the human frailties that make them such.
Dr. Forna's love for his country led him to accept a leadership role in governing it. It is Aminetta Forna's search for the facts surounding his rise and eventual tragic fall that is the essence of this narrative.
Not only a talented observer Ms. Forna has a knack for exquisite expression in relating the facts uncovered.
As a reader I found myself giving a great sigh as I concluded the final page late at night feeling I had personally lived every instance.
Emmett Evans
British Virgin Islands
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Format: Hardcover
Aminatta Forna seamlessly links the Sierra Leone of the 50's and 60's with the 90's and in so doing gives the reader the beginnings of an understanding of the reasons for the turmoils in that country. Reading this book was the catalyst to further research to understand the issues in Sierra Leone today. You do need to have an eye for detail as the latter part of the book does introduce, from necessity a whole host of characters who in turn were willing to discuss their part in the fate of Aminatta's gifted doctor father. An excellent read which brings you right into the family of Aminatta as a young child in Africa and Scotland, and latterly into her life as a successful British journalist living in London and researching in Sierra Leone.
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Format: Paperback
Reading this book made me cry because my Dad was also arrested at that time but was released without charge because he was away at the said date of the said meeting.
I applaud you Aminatta because of your courage,love and undeniable strength of spirit in writing this book. It is a vivid account of the modern face/history of Sierra Leone from our own perspective. I mean a Sierra Leonean perpective, because we've lived it, felt all the pain and anguish of the Sierra Leone of today founded on the grounds of coruption, deceit, selfishness and thirst for absolute power, incepted by Siaka Stevens and Co.
I am still hopeful for the best. S.Leone will one day be a place of peace as She once was. Aminatta, despite all that has happened we are still poducts of this beautiful country I therefore see it as a special mission to help the people develop in a positive way,in a non-political contribution. Many thanks.
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By A Customer on 24 Jun. 2002
Format: Hardcover
...I bought this book after reading reviews in The Economist and the Financial Times - not the sort of places you would imagine normally cover childhood memoirs. The reason is simple - it is much more than a chronicle of childhood. It is the story of Africa's slide into chaos and the people - the real people, not the anonymous victims we see on our televisions - whose lives are destroyed. Aminatta Forna's father, a medical doctor who entered politics and was one of the best of his generation, attempted to stand up to a dictator and sacrificed his own life. His daughter's childhood was sacrificed at the same time. But she meticulously and movingly writes them both back into life in a memoir which is defiant, harrowing and ultimately uplifting.
It is a great story - and a universal one. It isn't really about Africa at all - although you will learn a great deal about that continent and its fate - it really is about inhumanity, humanity, courage and the quest for truth.
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Format: Paperback
Aminatta Forna's memoir is more than just an autobiography. It is simultaneously a poignant and moving true tale of her family's past and also an empassioned account of modern West African political history.

Aminatta is the youngest of three children of a father from Sierra Leone who trained in medicine in Aberdeen, Scotland, and a Scottish mother. Her story takes in the movements of her family from her birth in Aberdeen and the family's move to Sierra Leone, and works through the developments when her father, a dedicated and altrusitic doctor, is drawn into the political process in an attempt to bring democracy to his country, which has moved from colonialism to uni-party politics from autocrats and dictators. The desperate corruption of despots and the quashing of political dissent are drawn with shocking candour and palpable emotion.

Along the way, Forna paints a vivid picture of a vast continent teeming with beautiful natural life - barren, dust-laden expanses of land, rural Africans living a life similar to that led by their ancestors centuries ago, and wildlife such as ants and snakes teeming across the dry parched land. She paints fascinating pictures of rural village life and ancient traditions such as chieftancy elections and the hierarchies of multiple wives.

Forna writes well and expresses with potency the feelings and thoughts of a young girl watching her father. There are funny anecdotes from her youth as well as moving and traumatic ones, and she captures the innocence of childhood with ease.

The stories from the days when her father practised medicine for long hours in his clinic are fascinating because of the contrast with our own western practice, and his dedication to helping others comes through clearly.
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