The Devil That Danced on the Water

The Devil That Danced on the Water : A Daughter's Memoir

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An intimate and moving portrait of a family combined with an account of the events which swept through Africa in the post-independence period. Aminatta Forna's intensely personal history is a passionate and vivid account of an African childhood - of an idyll that became a nightmare. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of post-colonial Africa, the bitterness of exile in Britain and the terrible consequences of her dissident father's stand against tyranny. Mohamed Forna, a man of unimpeachable integrity and great charisma, was a new star in the political firmament Sierra Leone as the country faced its future as a fledgling democracy. Always a political firebrand, he was one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. In Aberdeen he stole the heart of Aminatta's mother, to the dismay of her Presbyterian parents, and returned with her to Sierra Leone. But the new ways of Western parliamentary democracy were tearing old Africa apart, giving rise only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed-of magnitude. It was not long before Aminatta's father languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience, and there was worse to come. Aminatta's search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation's destiny begins among the country's elite and takes her into the heart of rebel territory. Determined to break the silence surrounding her father's fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nation's politicians and judiciary to confront their guilt.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 108 x 176 x 32mm | 299.37g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Flamingo
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 16
  • 0006531261
  • 9780006531265
  • 168,252

Review quote

'This is a book of quite extraordinary power and beauty. Aminatta Forna has excavated not only her memory but the hidden recesses of the heart.' Fergal Keane 'An extraordinary and gripping story...Aminatta Forna's book glows with compassion. A modern classic, of which her courageous father would have been proud.' Peter Gowin, author of 'Mukiwa' 'An engrossing account of pain, love and discovery that had the capacity not only to make me understand but also to move me to tears' Gillian Slovo, author of 'Every Secret Thing' 'I had tears in my eyes almost the whole way through, although it is the least sentimental of books...Aminatta Forna manages, quite brilliantly, to evoke not only all the honour and pity that is in her family's story, but its beauty and tenderness too.' Katie Hickman, author of 'Daughters of Britannia'

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About Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna is a writer and author of The Devil that Danced on the Water, a memoir of her dissident father. Her most recent book Ancestor Stones, a novel, was published in July 2006 and tells the story of the lives of four sister, daughters of a wealthy West African plantation owner. Published in 2002, The Devil that Danced on the Water was runner-up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003 serialised as 'Book of the Week' on BBC Radio and extracted in the Sunday Times newspaper in the UK. In the United States it was selected for the Barnes & Noble new writers Discovery series. Aminatta returned to Sierra Leone to film a documentary series 'Africa Unmasked,' which examined many of the themes of her recent book. The series aired on Channel 4 in November 2002. A former BBC reporter, she reported and presented on various politics, current affairs and arts programmes between 1989 and 1999. She is a contributor to several newspapers including the Independent, The Observer, the Sunday Times and the Evening Standard. She has acted as a judge for the MacMillan African Writer's Prize in 2003, the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2004 and the Caine Prize for Africa 2005 and 2006. She sits on the board of the Caine Prize and also Index on Censorship.

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Review Text

London-based broadcaster Forna somberly chronicles her search for the truth about her father's 1974 arrest and subsequent hanging in Sierra Leone. Mohamed Forna was the first of his family, a regionally powerful clan, to attend university. He studied medicine at St. Andrew's in Scotland and in the 1960s went back to Sierra Leone with his young white wife. Their daughter begins her story with a description of the first ten years of her own life, leading up to the day she last saw her father, accused of carrying out a bombing attack on a government minister. Forna recalls that her parents were initially happy together during the years he ran a small clinic and hospital he had founded in a rural area to help his people. But her father's increasing involvement in politics led to estrangement, the couple separated, and her mother took the children briefly to Scotland. They returned when Mohammed was appointed Finance Minister, but the marriage continued to unravel, as did the country. Forna affectingly but dispassionately details Sierra Leone's long, bloody spiral-still ongoing-into chaos. Her father was removed from office. Corrupt dictators ended democratic rule, destroyed the economy, and ruthlessly punished opponents like Mohammed Forna, who believed in democracy. His daughter also describes her encounters with racism as a child at English schools, her mother's remarriage and disappearance from their lives, and her relations with Mohammed's new wife, who had to protect his children as well as try to save his life. Returning to Sierra Leone in the early '90s was not easy; Forna's investigation into her father's death revealed unrepentant complicity and lying that said much about the current state of politics in a country that has wantonly destroyed its future. A searing indictment of African tyranny mingled with bittersweet childhood memories. (Kirkus Reviews)

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