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on 11 April 2013
'In The Shade Of The Mulberry Tree' tells the true story of a year in the life of its author, Catharine Withenay, who is suddenly transported from her very nice life in London to the far more challenging world of Zambia, when her husband accepts a research job at a Zambian hospital. The book charts Catharine's at first, very negative reaction to her new surroundings as she is faced with no proper furniture, shortage of money and a complete lack of local know how. However, as she becomes increasingly more 'at home' in the new country, small concessions to the new culture begin to emerge.

The book delights on several levels: Firstly in Withenay's written style, which is very clear, without being simplistic. There are some lovely descriptions of markets and shops, and journeys into the bush to see animals. It is as if the reader is actually there, peering over her shoulder at all the sights and marvels she is privileged to witness. The other aspect that pleases is her unflinching truthfulness, not only about her own feelings of homesickness and initial resentment at the upheaval of her entire world, but at the frustrations encountered by her husband in his medical research. There are some heart-rending descriptions of the suffering and privations endured by local people and their little ones that cannot fail to bring tears to the reader's eyes. A book that enlightens on several levels - not least in opening one's eyes to how other people have to little, and yet manage to enjoy life, and how we take so much for granted in our complacent Western world.
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on 24 March 2013
Catharine Withenay's 'In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree' is a wonderful glimpse into the life of a Mum with two young children being thrust into life in Zambia. She moves out to Africa with her husband's job as a Dr working on medical research on the children's wards.

The book is well written, easy to pick up and worked particularly well as a read which accompanied me on school runs, children's club pick-ups and hospital appointments as each chapter is split into smaller sections and can be read in short bursts - ideal for the busy Mum! It would also read well in longer episodes given the time to do so.

The book acts as a diary through the first year of life out in a strange country with different cultures and priorities to the UK and is written with humour, thoughtfulness and fascinating observations about an amazing country and her people. There are heart warming moments as well as several near misses - the style of writing invites the reader to wonder quite how they would react in a similar situation as Catharine reveals her feelings about them honestly and openly with deeper contemplation about the poverty and poor medical health she encounters on the way.

I'd recommend this book for any reluctant traveller, armchair explorers and particularly for anyone who would recognise the trials and tribulations of life with young children, as well as anyone who likes to be able to dip in and out of a story with ease.
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on 22 April 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book, the style is simple and flows wonderfully, it was a perfect read for any time of day. I loved hearing about the authors life in Zambia and was thourghly challenged on what i would do if faced in the same situations. I would reccommend this book to anyone who is, like me slightly nosy about what other people get up to, especially with such emotive circumstances of living in Africa and the challenges of poor medical care and poverty.
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on 2 April 2013
The perfect book for anyone considering a holiday or move to Africa, In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree describes life in Zambia with honesty and compassion. Catharine Withenay is an insightful writer, who gives a truthful account of her own inhibitions at leaving behind the comforts of family life in London, to follow her husband in his research studies to the quite contrasting and challenging climbs of Zambia.

The subject matter is both heart warming and challenging to those of us from a Western culture who are blessed with enough food and decent health care. I devoured this book in the space of two days and wait with bated breath for the next instalment.
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on 4 February 2016
Not a very exciting read. I couldn't help compare her first experiences to mine...I went out to Africa, not far from where the author was...also concrete floors in the house, no furniture etc etc but also we didn't have electricity ...for 5 years. We had oil lamps and a gas fridge and I washed my hair outside in the rainwater reservoir. Mosquitoes didn't freak me out when we arrived nor did ants have me running around in a frenzy (wonder what she would have done if she HAD met that wild elephant on her path that she was jauntily hoping to find on a game walk a couple of weeks later) I was pregnant and had a baby whilst living there and we didn't have any servants in the house. So I was wondering what she had to moan about. I loved Africa from the first minute I stepped out of the aircraft and it remains the best 5 years of my life.
At least she got a car wash for her money..mostly Africans just stand there by your car telling you when you return, that they had been looking after it for you. She is a vegetarian it seems throughout the book except that she tucked into burgers and sausages on page 193...presumably she couldn't get vegetarian sausages and burgers from the local ducca! But at least she came to like Zambia by the end of the book. Had I seen more of the contents before buying it I wouldn't have bought it. She was a bit too goody-two shoes for me.
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on 6 April 2013
This is an adventure of an ordinary family in amazing circumstances. I was drawn in to thinking 'How on earth would I have coped?" - as a wife and mum with small children in a foreign country, very different cultures and backgrounds...not to mention the animals both friendly and hungry ones!
I'm very pleased to know that Catharine more than coped, and I look forward to reading more adventures in the future.
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on 15 April 2013
This is a charminly written and often very emotive memoir which details the author's move to Zambia and the trails and tribulations of setting up a home. The descriptions are often very accurate and funny, speaking as someone who has lived in various places in Sub-Saharan Africa during her life. Give it a try!
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on 6 September 2015
I discovered this book when I was researching Zambia for my latest novel and found it an fascinating picture of moving to and living in a different culture. Catharine's initial unhappiness gradually turns to enjoyment as she settles in and learns about her new home. The writing style is relaxed, making it an easy read and I finished it in less than 24 hours. Highly recommended.
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on 12 April 2013
Brilliant and well written book!!! I'm thoroughly impressed with Catharine's accurate, unbiased and honest account of her family's experiences in Zambia through the eyes of an English person. As a Zambian I was very pleased to read this book and look forward to more literary works from Catharine.
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on 21 April 2013
I very much enjoyed this book. Moving unwillingly to Zambia with two small children, setting up home and dealing with a very different culture, Catharine Withenay's descriptions are so vivid that you can clearly picture the situations she finds herself in. This book is both funny and thought provoking. Highly recommended.
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