Author: Brian Dawtrey
Title: Voyage To Wild Africa
Destination: England, Tanzania
Length: 14 years
Type: expat stay
Humourous (old) man
The story: we’re right at the end of WW2, and BD is a young man from England who is crazily in love with a girl. He writes her a ton of letters. – cut – It’s four years later, and BD has married the girl and his living with her on a farm. They have children. It’s a version of European farm life in the 1950s. – cut – We’re now at he beginning of the sixties. It’s the end of the colonial age, and for some reason, BD has taken his family to East Africa, to what today is called Tanzania. They stay there for a few years, with their children, experiencing a life very different from home. There is work to be done (BD is responsible for an agricultural project), there are languages to be learned, and there is wildlife to be discovered. So far so good, but…
This book is a bit weird. First of all, BD (or the publisher) chose to call it a „trilogy“, when it actually consists of one main story (the years in Africa), one small story (the farm years in England), and a collection of letters (from young BD to his girl). Not exactly a trilogy. I found the letters a bit hard to read, and while I was waiting for the actual story to start, I found myself thinking that maybe they should have interspersed the text with the letters at a later stage. Yes, that would have been better. The years in England were amusing to read, but they felt more like a collection of random anecdotes than a real story. The part about Africa was a bit similar, but the story element seemed to have been slightly improved. Only slightly though. All in all, there is not much in this book to keep the reader motivated. You read on, yes. But you’re definitely not hooked.
Brian Dawtrey looking back at things
It’s challenging to judge BD’s writing. There are flaws, yes. But he comes across as a charming guy, and there are times when he is very witty and humorous. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between him and the other members of his family, and some of his observations were pretty original, too. But I do think that this book needs some serious editing. Right now it feels as though we are just listening to BD reflect on some random episodes in his life, which makes for good dinner conversation but not necessarily for a good book.
If you are into (post-)colonial Africa, you might want to read this. Otherwise, it might feel a bit tiring.