Child of Africa…
About the Book:
After returning from Afghanistan, ex-British marine Joss Brennan embraces living as a double amputee, but he finds life at his safari lodge near Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, not quite as idyllic as when he left.
Peta de Longe is a big game veterinarian and no stranger to hard decisions. Working in the messy political society of Zimbabwe, she’s engaged in a constant struggle to save the national parks. When she nearly drives over Joss, the reunion isn’t joyous – Joss let down her dying sister eighteen months before, after all. But once she uncovers the terrible ordeal that Joss has gone through, can she learn to forgive and move forward?
When a corrupt and dangerous businessman with close ties to government threatens all he holds dear, Joss realises he doesn’t need to save strangers in a faraway land. But will he fight to save his own country and the people he considers his family?
Child of Africa is the novel about Africa I have been waiting for. With vivid clarity, T.M. Clark has woven together a story about modern Africa, Zimbabwe in particular, that shows its desperate plight: a nation where everything is considered a commodity, no one is safe, and nothing remains sacred. Ethnic cleansing has left much of the population transient and in poverty. Land reclamation through force and subsequent abandonment of reclaimed properties has led to a decline in farming and food supplies, as well as banishment for white Africans. Poaching is prevalent and corruption ensures its continuation. Yet against this bleak backdrop, there is hope in the form of those who love Africa and want to preserve its wild animals before they are all gone forever. It’s these people who are the inspiration for the characters in Child of Africa.
“More than 140,000 of Africa’s savannah elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014, one-third of the total population. On average, one elephant is being poached every fifteen minutes. It is estimated wild elephants will be extinct within twenty-five years.”
“Rhinos are a critically endangered species. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were approximately one million rhinos. In 1970, there were only 70,000. Today, there are around 28,000 rhinos surviving in the wild.”
(Author notes from Child of Africa)
My knowledge of Africa is rather sketchy in terms of specifics, but after reading Child of Africa, I feel I now have a much more solid grasp on the situation, in Zimbabwe at least. T.M. Clark is a superb writer. Her passion for Africa and her first hand knowledge of living there makes for an excellent basis upon which to bring Africa alive on the page. Through both narrative and dialogue, she imparts essential history as well as current conditions with precision. The facts and fiction section at the back of the book highlights just how much truth there is in everything she writes and I appreciated her taking the time to include this section – fiction inspired by fact is always my favourite and I admire authors who write with a clear agenda that aligns with altruistic motivations.
As you might expect, when writing truthfully about ethnic cleansing and wildlife poaching, there are some confronting scenes, both implied and described, yet I never felt that any of them were gratuitous or over the top. Everything included simply added to that sense of realism in terms of time and place. There were characters to loathe as well as plenty of them to love, but one character in particular made my heart sing: Ndhlovy, the elephant. I absolutely adored the relationship between Ndholvy and her ‘human’, particularly the parts that were told from her perspective. It reminded me of Gorillas in the Mist, just in the sense of that bond of trust being formed between a human and an animal so wild and great. It gave me goose bumps – in the best way!
I’d like to think that there really are people like Joss, Peta, Mitch and Bongani in Africa, doing exactly what T.M. Clark has written them as doing: working to save the animals from extinction and the people from the effects civil war and corruption. I think it’s very unlikely I’ll ever visit Africa, but it’s wonderful to know that I can rely on T.M. Clark to take me there in spirit. You’ll feel immersed while reading this novel. The searing temperatures, the relieving rain, the wildlife on the savannah, the bond between people who have lived in the same place and faced the same challenges. I loved every page of Child of Africa and look forward to reading T.M. Clark’s other titles as soon as I can.
About the Author:
Born in Zimbabwe, T.M. Clark completed her primary school years at boarding school in Bulawayo, but on weekends and holidays she explored their family ranch in Nyamandhlovu, normally on the back of her horse. Her teenage years were totally different to her idyllic childhood. After her father died, the family of five women moved to Kokstad, a rural town at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa, and the boarding school hostel became her home.
She began writing fiction in the UK while a stay-at-home mum to her two sons and she hasn’t looked back.
Now living on a small island near Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, T.M. Clark combines her passion for storytelling with her love for Africa.
Her first novel, My Brother-But-One, was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Award 2014. She is also the author of novels Shooting Butterflies and Tears of the Cheetah, as well as a novella, The Avoidable Orphan, and a children’s picture book, Slowly! Slowly!, which are companion books to Child Of Africa.
Readers can find T.M. Clark on Facebook (tmclarkauthor), Twitter (@tmclark_author) or visit her website at tmclark.com.au.