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VINE VOICEon 1 September 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ed Caine works for an NGO which is overseeing a development in Batanga paid for from the British government's Overseas Aid programme. He arrives in the country with his wife and small child, full of enthusiastic idealism. His wife, Sarah, looks forward to finding a job that will be fulfilling for her and a positive contribution to improving the lot of women in east Africa.

Disillusion and danger lie in wait. Beatrice Kamunda also has a vision for her country, a dream of helping the numerous sick and the poor. Her father, Joseph, nurtures her belief - but no further than a pragmatic understanding of the possibilities. For Batanga is riddled with corruption. Aid money disappears into mysterious overseas accounts of prominent politicians. Civil war is a realistic threat. Against this background, Beatrice falls in love with Solomon Ouko, a businessman with an approach to ethics more opportunistic than moral.

To reveal more of the plot would be unfair, for this is a superb novel - a thriller in its action, a sermon for our times in its portrayal of what can and cannot be achieved. The writing is unfussy and vivid. Here is an Africa that has been extracted as it were from our television news bulletins. Fiction, perhaps, but with a sober ring of truth.
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on 7 August 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this and, like all good reads, was disappointed when I ended the book that I had no more to read!
Having spent some time in East Africa myself I was very impressed with the author's attention to detail and his provoking insight into the vagaries of global aid mixed with corruption.
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on 3 August 2012
This is JM Shaw's second novel. Like the first, 'The Illumination of Merton Browne', it is a tightly-written modern thriller with a huge amount to say. It is set in Batanga, a fictionalised East African country. The core of the plot revolves around the doomed attempt by an English NGO worker, Ed Caine, to improve the lives of slum-dwellers in the capital city. Ed's well-meaning but rather utopian plans soon come up against reality in a country where the struggle to survive involves bribery, extortion and corruption from the lowest levels of society to the very highest.
The characters Ed comes across all have their own stories and their own struggles. We meet Stephen, the young man living in the slum who dreams of a better life; Solomon, the charming but shady businessman who was once a slum boy like Stephen; Beatrice, the clever and feisty daughter of a government official, who wants to make her country a better place; and Joseph, her father, who has tried to avoid corruption all his life, but has had to turn a blind eye to the corruption of others. Somehow or other they all become involved in Ed's plans to improve the slums, but it's impossible for them to overcome the vested interests of the powerful officials, who have other plans for the land.
Shaw's characters are never cynical, nor are they mere cyphers. Each one has an interior world and an integrity which casts light on the thought-provoking issues that the book explores - the cause and effects of Foreign Aid, of immigration, of corrupt elites.
The evocation of Africa is wonderful, the dialogue sharp and witty, the pace of the story intense and page-turning. There is a charming and unlikely love story, which involves a moving exploration of what it means to really love someone.
This is a modern thriller with both heart and brains. I would highly recommend it.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This story is set in the fictional state of Batanga. The evidence is a bit mixed, but Batanga would appear to be situated in Horn of Africa, close to Somalia. The country is, unfortunately similar to many in this post colonial world. There is a huge gulf between the haves and have nots. The latter live on the edge of legality in order to survive and are wholly vulnerable to exploitation. The Government is mainly interested in self enrichment, thrives on nepotism, and is almost exclusively drawn from one tribe amongst many. As one of the characters in the book says `Corruption is a way of life. It's in the national DNA'.

It is against this background that Ed Caine arrives with his family. He gets a good taste of how the country operates even before they leave the airport. Ed is well meaning but naive. He is a Director of the Global Justice Alliance, an aid organisation, and his task it to oversee a slum clearance project which will result in good housing, schools and clinics. It comes as a huge surprise to him, if no one else, that the project's resources have been hijacked and its objects subverted.

This is a well written book, but initially at least it is somewhat depressing. The assessment of international aid projects is a bit too near the truth for comfort. Local corruption is met by the self interest of aid organisations and foreign donor governments who seek to present even extremely adverse outcomes in a positive light. However, there are a few good, incorruptible people in this story and the Batangans in this group are in considerable physical peril. However, the main danger for foreigners is that they will be bought off in some way.

Later in the book the story gets wings and is quite a fast moving, tense and exciting read in which the outcome is far from certain. I felt the conclusion was perhaps a bit of an anti climax as compared with what came before as the author tied up the various loose ends. However, it is not at all clear what the alternative ending would have been. This is an interesting read, but what remains with you long after you have finished the book is that it is a stark commentary on the failure of international aid to achieve what the well meaning donors intend and the huge gulf between intentions and unintended outcomes in many cases.
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on 20 August 2012
In a fictional African Republic (a sort of Uganda with a coast) where corruption is normal and tribal allegiances trump moral values, the plot follows Government ministers, slum-dwellers, and a well-intentioned Aid worker, as the government collapses. Aid agencies are addicted to giving without reference to benefit, officials steal without fear of exposure, do-gooders move on to the next project, while "the Army of Celestial Peace" hack and slaughter their way to power and those wonderful Western handouts. The author sites fifteen reference works "among others". While I enjoyed the good read - an easy page-turner - the book also gave me a digest of how the whole woeful circus operates.
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on 15 February 2013
My five stars are awarded not for this book's literary qualities, which are almost irrelevant, but for the profound sermon it preaches on the reality of the aid game. While I cannot judge the extent to which Shaw's bleak portrait is justified, he certainly raises enough questions in a sufficiently convincing manner to make us all think twice, thrice, many times, about the effectiveness of development aid, that provided both by governments and NGOs.
The point he makes is that, not only does aid virtually never achieve its supposed objective of making life better for the poor, but it actually makes things worse, keeping in power those who have caused the problem in the first place. By means of very many examples he shows how this is the case. For example, the slum clearing project which benefits only the property developers, while the previous occupants are sent packing. For example the emergency food aid which, when not stolen, is distributed free of charge thereby driving local food producers out of business. For example the beautiful western style hospital whose generous supplies of medication soon find their way on to the black market.
The main actors in the aid game are a small number of western idealists and a large number of corrupt locals. I personally am convinced that the harm done by both these groups would be reduced if we cut off the cash flow, or diverted a small part of it to the nuns who provide the only effective western presence in this world of violence and venality.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ed and Sarah Caine and their young son Archie, head out to Kisuru for Ed to begin his new job working for The Global Justice Alliance.

Full of enthusiasm Ed gets to work immediately and sees for himself the urgent need for the work to begin in the slum areas. Poverty, corruption and bribery are rife and with the help of his fellow co worker , Beatrice, they begin to sift through the endless paperwork and legalities of starting the project.

Its not long before they realise all the funds raised for the project have been spent but with no work to show for it, they are up against corruption right at the highest level. With help along the way from Beatrice`s father Joseph, and her friend Solomon, once a slum boy, now a businessman, who is in love with her, they know they are up against time because of officials who are also after this land.

Setting out with good intentions. the cultural differences and potential civil war, wear the team down and they have a fight on their hands, not just for the project but for their lives.

Each character has their own story to tell, intertwined till the very end. A thought provoking book, that will make you think ` that money i donated to that cause, is it really going where it should be going`. Everything and everyone has a price!!!

The book is stunning to read, engaging, draws you in and keeps you hooked until the final turning of the last page.

Loved it..
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ed Caine works for a NGO called Global Justice Alliance and he and his family travel to Batanga, a fictional East African country, to oversee a slum improvement project which should provide a school, hospital and better living conditions for the locals. It becomes apparent quite soon though that the funds provided by a British government department disappeared before the project could even get started.

The book is a fictionalised account of an aid project that goes wrong and the reactions to - and consequences of - it from the different persons involved. From the corrupt minister to the slum inhabitant and the middle men that try to get the best out of a bad situation. It is a very interesting book with some powerful arguments for a clean-up in the aid business.

Most people have long been aware that much money is wasted in some of the big projects and many have now chosen only to donate to smaller ones that do not need to "boost turnover" despite the fact that it is helping nobody - just to get more money from the donors. The problem, of course, is that it is not the individuals that decide where the money flows when it is government aid and there is seemingly much less accountability in this area.

There are some very poignant sentences in the book that stresses this problem and the attitudes to it:
"In this life, one has to make people believe they're doing the right thing" ... "that's the key to aid business. Of course everyone knows things go wrong and that these programmes usually don't work out, but you mustn't rub their noses in it"

"There's no business like the aid business, Miss Kamunda. Every villain in Batanga wants to work in development"

"We seem to apply different standards to Africa and the Middle East than we do to anywhere else in the world. What's that about? We're talking about rich people stealing from the poor".

"It's not so much a matter of knowing exactly what happened to the money. Very often in cases like this, the donor would rather not know. The real point is deciding how to present everything in the public accounts, and there's usually a way of doing that".

Naturally, we should not stop helping countries and peoples in need, but it is important that we don't create an even worse situation before we leave for the next project. And the author has clearly researched this subject and come out with a very negative view of the aid business. This is actually my only real criticism: Whereas the corrupt people or the ones standing on the sidelines watching in despair give plenty of arguments showing the faults of the aid business and arguing for why it doesn't work, we don't really get to hear a proper argument from the other side with any kind of suggestion for how we can solve these issues. Maybe the author has given up and doesn't see any way out of the situation, but I choose to believe that he wrote the book because he is frustrated, angry and sad that the situation is the way it is and it is sufficiently important for us all to get engaged and require changes to the system in place, so therefore it would have been interesting to see a few arguments for aid as well - even if there is a lot talking against it as it is.

An important book that should create some food for discussion around the dinner tables!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having greatly enjoyed this authors first novel The Illumination of Merton Browne, I was eager to read his new offering. Ten Weeks in Africa is set in the fictional East African country of Batanga, where Ed and Sarah Caine are going to work, taking their toddler son, Archie. Both are highly motivated and eager to make a difference - Ed as the Director of a project hoping to provide a slum community with a school, clinic and new housing and Sarah with a passionate desire to find work improving the lives of African women. It soon becomes apparent though that they are deeply out of their depth in a country rife with corruption.

Like Shaw's previous novel, this book covers a lot of issues. We have the tragedy of Stephen Odinga and his family, trying desperately to eke out a living in the slums, and the criminals which run them. The sinister Pamela Abasi, whose nephew Milton is supposed to be in charge of Ed's project before his arrival, but who is more interested in clubbing than the poor. The high ideals of Ed and Sarah set against the cynicism of journalist Mike Owens. Beatrice Kamanda and her father Joseph, who attempt to help Ed and set their incorrupability against a system which calls for realism and compromise. There is also an undercurrent of violence, from corrupt officials to the sudden outbreak of war or disaster and, always, a desire for the money that aid brings into the country - destined never to reach the people who most desperately need it. Although this novel says little we do not know, it says it well, with good characters and a fast paced storyline. A novel of hope and disillusionment, part thriller and part love story, this is an enjoyable and thought provoking novel which would be ideal for book groups.
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on 7 August 2015
Ten weeks in Africa by J.M Shaw is book about an English man (Ed) who takes his wife (Sarah) and son over to Africa with an overseas aid programme to try and make a difference to the Makera slums in Kisuru. While Sarah tries to find a house and a job she is passionate about things do not go smoothly for Ed and Beatrice Kamunda as they get caught up in the the corruption and violence of African politics. Pamela Abasi, a politician, who says she is supporting their work, turns out not to be all that she seems.

I found this book both thought provoking and shocking. I know the bare minimum about Africa and its politics but this book has defiantly enlightened me somewhat. It also puts to you the question of how much overseas aid actually gets to the right places, is it just eaten up by greedy politicians? This book is fast pace and has plenty of action in it to keep you turning the pages.

I found Sarah and her son a bit unnecessary to the book as they didn’t appear to have any relevance to the story itself. But having Stephen and his family brought the African side of the story properly in focus, which I think is the main point to Shaw writing this book.

I will give this book three out of five stars.
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