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These stories were a very mixed bag. Whilst most of them were very short there was the odd longer one in there. Their material was diffuse and they often seemed to be delicate ephemeral affairs. It’s a difficult book to describe because the stories are so varied, and there isn’t even the voice of one author to run as a common thread through it all. And the subject matter varies from legend and myth, through colonial and into post colonial Africa.

There are some gems in here. For example,  Minutes of Glory by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, about a prostitute’s search for meaning and love in her life, for a moment of recognition of her existence and that she is a soul, or Nadine Gordimer’s searching tale, The Bridegroom, about a white man’s struggles with his conscience over how his relationship with his black workers in a remote outpost will change when he brings a wife out there.

But there were many others that were beyond me, confusing me, alienating me, or just leaving me unmoved. So, overall I have mixed feelings about this book. Many of the stories moved me, especially the ones about women protecting their daughters in the face of a male world, but I think less than half of them affected me. I’m not sure of the reason,  maybe my lack of understanding of many of them was cultural.

The book does order the stories from where in Africa they came from and, as described in the introduction, I think this is helpful, as certain patterns do emerge: the predominance of race in the south, the sparseness of the northern stories, although all the stories still have an ‘other’, Africa, flavour, at least to me. 

So, a mixed collection, some very good, some mediocre. Worth dipping into through, as there are sparkling pleasures.

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