This book is a must for those that have spent time in DRC. You will recognise the Congo Mike writes about, good and bad. Don't be put off by the size of the book it's an absolute page turner. I loved the way at the end, Mike managed to make me think in a way I did not think possible. Can't wait to read Child Witch London.
I chose this rating not because this is a literary piece of genius but because it is a great story, well told with earnest and unpretentious humour and easy style. The subject matter however is rare and important. The book exposes a world where mainstream beliefs based on fear and ignorance are so fickle and destructive that children’s lives can be at best wrecked and sent hurtling in a direction of destitution and extreme vulnerability at worst ending in the most inhuman cruel treatment. The fragility of life in such a society is palpable. Yet the book makes this context accessible through the eyes of a quirky characters you can relate to, like or dislike, and a humour that really grows on you. I say read this book !
After reading Ormsby's hillarious Never Mind The Balkans book, I decided to see what else this author had to offer, and although Witch Child Kinshasa was a radically different book, again it did not disappoint - a very intriguing insight into African beliefs surrounding sorcery and witchaft.So much so I am now reading and enjoying his follow up Witch Child London.
There are two books in this series and now that they're both available, you're not going to be able to read this book and then not read the second. I loved the interwoven style, following different characters' narratives through the books. But it did keep me awake later than I preferred! - I'd keep reading after leaving a storyline thread to find out what happened when we returned to that thread (and of course then got engrossed in the new thread too and had to follow that until it returned and so my hours of sleep were easily lost)... I've never been to the DRC but felt immersed in the setting. I've travelled enough and worked in enough cross-cultural situations to appreciate the realism in descriptions of places, people and their interactions. He does capture the fragility of the human capacity for altruism incredibly well. However, I found a certain insurmountable fatalism in the realism and I wanted the author to find a way past it. Its unlikely you will read this then fly off to the DRC full of idealistic naiveté ready to "fix it". But, and this holds all the more once you read the second book, you will be left asking questions of yourself. I don't share the predominantly secular worldview represented through protagonist Frank, but I did find myself reflecting critically on the biases and blind spots in my own worldview as I read the book. And I did go on to read the second book...
What a page turner. The story was brillaintly crafted and very thoroughly researched - I know because I wrote my masters dissertation on the subject of child witches in the DRC. The charatcters were strong and I couldn't wait to find out what happened to them all the way through.
Brilliant book - so much packed into it. Other reviews have told you about the subject and storyline so I wont repeat all of it - but you should know that what you get here is an insight into a culture that appears so far removed from our own and yet full of human frailty and emotion that we instantly identify with it. You understand what Dudu is going through even if the very idea of being accused of being witch is something we see as belonging to the Dark Ages, not the space ages. We follow his progress as he escapes the barbaric consequences of the false accusation and begins a journey to who knows where - a journey that is fraught with danger and takes Dudu into the full harshness of reality in post civil war DRC where superstition and danger lurk around every corner. He and his travel companion, a much harder and aware fellow who has been robbed of his innocence and trust and has learned to live off his wits as he searches for his brother. Their relationship is central to the desperate adventure. The background and context is provided by the story of Frank, a journalist working for a US NGO attempting to train journalists and make a real difference but being frustrated in the process by post war politics and people following agendas of their own. He becomes aware of the child witch superstition and the resulting abuse of innocent children and finds himself drawn to it. If all this wasn't enough we also get the backdrop of Frank's long suffering wife back in suburban UK struggling to run a family with an addition on the way whilst worrying about her absentee partner. A wonderfully complex novel written in a cleverly relaxed style filled with drama, excitement, education and humour. If like me you have never been to Africa, you will feel as though you have when you put the book down. Should be book of the year! Looking forward to reading the sequel.
Very few people want to talk about the issue of children accused of witchcraft. Believe me, I know. As Chair of Stop Child Witch Accusations (http://stop-cwa.org/) and Director of a charity that enables local partners in DRCongo to address witchcraft accusations against children, I spend a lot of time and energy trying to engage people with this issue. But at last I have a resource in ‘Child Witch Kinshasa’ that can help people to learn about it in a way that is non-threatening, stimulating and enriching. Beautifully written, this book is totally authentic. Not only does Ormsby accurately evoke what life is like for the beleaguered and long-suffering people of DRCongo, he also powerfully portrays what life is like for the many thousands of children in DRCongo who are accused of witchcraft. Ormsby’s skilful and compassionate descriptions ‘ring true’, and through this book, he has become a champion for children whose plight has been ignored and hidden for far too long. Read it, spread the word, and help stop this widespread persecution against children.