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on 21 July 2013
This is a very personal story of Aminatta's amazing life, but it also does more to explain the problems of the transition from colony to a democratic country than anything else, ever. Aminatta sees and describes the thinking in the people who failed to run the country adequately, and those that brought them to power, while all the time telling how she and her family, and those around them experienced the consequences.

This should be required reading for anyone involved in reporting on war in Africa, and probably anywhere else where levels of literacy are low. I would recommend it to anyone travelling to West Africa for any reason, and most definitely anyone with freinds from Sierra Leone.
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on 8 November 2012
It took me a while to get into this memoir, which I read after I had read the author's "The Memory of Love," probably a more accomplished work. In the end, however, Ms Forna's book transported me back to those dreadful times in Sierra Leone when the seeds of subsequent disasters were sown. Lovingly written, the book also painted the picture of what Sierra Leone was like for a privileged young boy or girl growing up in a beautiful country before the beginning of the descent. This is a contemporary history text that should be standard reading for anyone interested also in understanding the nature of love, courage and betrayal in a background of the politics of evil.
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on 28 August 2013
I caught an interview with Aminatta Forna on TV and my interest was piqued by the discussion so I downloaded this book. I had never heard of Mohamed Forna, her father, who was briefly Minister of Finance in the government of Siaka Stevens in Sierra Leone in the 70's, but who resigned in protest at the corruption he witnessed, and went on to found a separate political party- an act which made him an enemy of Stevens and his henchmen, and ultimately led to his death sentence for treason. Aminatta Forna's journey to discover the truth surrounding the events which resulted in her father's execution in 1975 is an unsentimental but deeply moving narrative that takes the reader back to the period of Sierra Leonian independence, and chronicles the trajectory of the country from the early days of naive idealism to the greed, corruption and violence which eventually culminated in a decade of civil war that all but destroyed the country. The blend of personal narrative and historical record, often told through the voices of witnesses whom Aminatta Forna tracks down and interviews, forms a powerful and gripping story that is hard to put down. The book is divided into 2 parts: the first is Aminatta's memory of her early childhood- fascinating in itself as she is the daughter of a Sierra Leonian father and a Scottish mother, and spent her childhood shuttling between Freetown and London, sometimes in exile from the regime. This part of her life and of the book ends when she is 10 years old, on the day her father is taken away for the last time. The second part explores Mohamed Forna's political life, placing him in the context of what was happening in the country generally, and examines the role played by Mohamed and and his contemporaries in the years before and during the presidency of Siaka Stevens. In order to compile such a record, and especially, in order to discover the exact sequence of events which led to her father's arrest and subsequent execution, Aminatta makes several visits to the country which are themselves hair-raising in parts and show the extreme difficulty of the task she undertook, even 25 years after the events she is researching. The result is a book which both grips and informs, reading often like a thriller (and with the trial and execution itself saved for the ending); the colours and smells of Africa, and the fear and tension seep through so that the reader is completely immersed in her world. My only gripe about the Kindle edition is that there are one or two missing or misplaced pages (where a page clearly does not connect to the one before it) and this was annoying. Otherwise, this is a sad, beautiful and very powerful story that sucks you in and haunts your imagination for many days after finishing it.
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on 25 August 2015
Beautifully written as usual, never disappoints. I waited for this book and read it on kindle but it's a book you wish you had on the shelf to look through again and again. I love the style in which Forna writes - she's one of my favourite authors. Stylish, human, lovely descriptive peices where you feel the fear, the happiness and all that she is feeling. Without comparing, she has laid down the stark differences between her Mother's Scotland and her Father's Sierra Leone and the stark changes and transitions, she endured throughout. always writing through the mind of a child would see it, feel it. An amazing write, a book I would definitely recommend - as I would any of her other books. This one in particular is an account through the eyes of a child going through the back and forths of what it was to be a child of mixed race in that no so far away era.

If you like to read a book without lazy cliche's and an original account of near history, her people and the vast oceans of how cultures are seen through her eyes with no judgement what so ever, just the pure acceptance of a child growing amidst this confusion, it's a must read. Not depressing at all (although the actual circumstances are very sad) Forna manages to keep that at bay and you read with humour and a smile. You're left feeling wistful in a good way about this book. Struggles, barbaric incidences, the stark transitions between cultures and how this family were thrown around by politics, fearing for their lives and yet so incredibly innocent. Brilliant!!!!
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on 26 October 2002
I lived in Sierrra Leone from the age of 9 to 13 (1971-1974). Reading this book took me back and filled my eyes with tears. It breaks my heart to read of the destruction of a country which I remember so fondly and which had such a massive effect on how I view the world.
The book is beautifully written. Read it and pray for happier times to come........
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on 31 August 2016
A great achievement to have woven a memoir out of your childhood and lives and political activities of your of your parents.
Very moving, the book tells of her parents’ early life together and her father’s work as a doctor in his native Sierra Leone before he branches off into politics and dares to challenge the corrupt regime. At the same time, the author tells of her early life and her impressions of life around her as she observes her father’s involvement in the dangerous world of West African politics. You get an insightful look into the internal dynamics of a Sierra Leone family, as well as the political machinations of the time.
At times I found it difficult to work out where I was in time and place, and who everyone was ( and perhaps the help of a fierce editor would have improved the narrative flow), but the book is still a tour-de-force and tells a heart-tugging story.
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on 3 March 2003
Forna's book is a fascinating account, one that people of all races, nationalities, ages, etc. will appreciate. It is a diary, a history textbook and an adventure all in one book. You will not be disappointed. It is beautifully written by an incredibly grounded woman who has experienced a traumatic childhood. Yet through all of this she manages to retain the innocence of childhood. The book seems disjointed at times, but it is done that way on purpose and is effective because it is evocative of her confusing childhood and fuzzy memories of what happened to her father. Forna deserves thanks and praise for embarking on her quest and for writing this book. The best way to thank her is by experiencing her story. And you will not read this book, you will experience it.
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on 13 May 2014
Aminatta's biography is a fascinating one, moving from her early childhood in Scotland to Sierra Leone and then back and forth between the UK and Africa. The story of her father's life and death is well told and the tragedy of his destruction is described in a moving way. Her life as a child in Africa and at school in England is also well delineated, and the difficulties with peers at school in England and within her family in Africa are well presented. The book could have done with some editing as in part it reads as though it has just been written without sufficient structure to the narration. However, all in all it is an interesting read, both politically and emotionally.
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on 11 June 2011
Having read a small artical in the paper, so I got the books, and glad I did they are beautifully written books, and I found out Aminatta Forna just lived across the road from me and dident know
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on 14 June 2012
This is not really a review of the book as such, but a word of caution for those who may think this is similar to Aminatta Forna's other work. If you like autobiographies - this is an excellent book from that perspective and you will enjoy it. I am not a fan of autobiographies (rather the opposite) and ordered this book kind of on impulse without looking at the synopsis, late at night,having just finished The Memory of Love also by Aminatta Forna - because I loved it so much and was craving for something similar!!!! It was my mistake really and as a result I struggled with The Devil That Danced on the Water and left it unread...
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