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on 21 April 2017
thank you - this is a great read and the delivery service to be recommended
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Kristy and Hugh foster arrive on an unnamed island in the Indian Ocean in the dying days of the British Empire. Hugh, new to colonial life, blunders his way through the diplomatic protocol as he tries to make sense of the requirements of his new job. Olivia Manning casts a very satirical eye over the lives of the appalling British ex-pats clinging to an anachronistic life as African, Arab and Indian communities vie for power in the coming independence.

Hugh and Kristy are a very ill-matched couple but it is hard not to feel sorry for them. Olivia Manning is particularly good at writing about disintegrating relationships. There are lots of other interesting (if grotesque) characters. Mrs Gunner pre-dates Basil Fawlty as a hotel owner constantly irritated by her guests! The Hotel Daisy is gradually disintegrating - the British Empire in allegorical form?

But although there are comical aspects to The Rain Forest the author is somewhat prescient about issues such as the development and the environment. The ending is both shocking and ambivalent.

A fascinating read by a very under-rated author.
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on 12 December 2013
...but short on story. much like the trilogies, a disintegrating marriage at an outpost of the crumbling empire with dotty & opaque characters passing thru in a chekovian manner. but no war to make it interesting; instead a rather aimless ramble thru gorgeous landscapes & nature. beautifully written but ultimately unsatisfying.
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on 10 October 2009
After reading all six of the Fortunes of War novels I became a fan of Olivia Manning and sought out some of her other novels. School for Love is another good novel of hers, as is this one. But instead of being set in war time europe this novel is set on a fictional island Al Bustan.
Rather similar in style to the fortunes of war novels, it centres on the realtionship between Hugh and Kristy Foster who arrive on the island at a time of political upheaval and corruption.
Al bustan is a fictional island, but that makes it all the more appealing. Mrs Mannings descriptions are goergous and unless you knew that is wasn't real, you would think she had lives there herself like she had in the Balkans and the Levant. Descriptions of the islands landscapes, history, wildlife and geography are all beautiful and vividly written. The ending is chilling and will leave you feeling unsettled.
The only (quite big)glitch I found with it was that I didn't find myself sympathizing with the characters unlike in the fortunes of war series where I loved all of the characters, even the annoying and pathetic ones. Hugh and Kristy aren't as endearing as Guy and Harriet Pringle and it was only towards the end of the book that I found myself caring about them. Also, i didn't like any of the supporting characters. But other than that, well written and cleverly contrived, worth reading for the descriptive passages alone or if you are a fan of Olivia Manning.
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on 3 September 2009
First published in 1974 but despite knowing this author from The Balkan and The Levant trilogies I had never come across this title before. It was drawn to my attention when I read a review by a friend; she then very kindly sent me her copy.

A tale from the last days of the British Empire, When Hugh Foster a failing script writer takes a temporary post with the Foreign Office; on the island of Al-Bustan in the Indian Ocean his marriage is already very rocky. After eleven years of married life he and his wife Kristy, a writer herself, are leading somewhat separate lives and Hugh seems somewhat surprised that she had agreed to go with him. This posting is to be an opportunity for them to start afresh.
Settling in to their new life in Al-Bustan is no easy task as they find themselves surrounded by snobbery and political scheming by people who just do not want to accept either of them into island society. They are both treated appallingly but particularly Kristy, one could not help feeling sorry for this weak and pathetic couple. It was so annoying when they put up with such treatment, especially at the hotel where they had to deal with the most terrible humiliations!
An extremely tense and sad ending to a novel that although I found exasperating at times I could not help but like as it is so well written.
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on 29 April 2013
The story provides an interesting perspective on an era in British colonialism which is hard to believe prevailed 50 years ago!
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