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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 108 x 176 x 32mm | 299.37g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Flamingo
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 16
  • 0006531261
  • 9780006531265
  • 190,129

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 more

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'show more

Review Text

In this heartwarming and moving book, journalist Aminatta Forna deals with two big issues: her childhood in Scotland and Sierra Leone, and the tragic murder of her father, a talented doctor who became caught up with politics and was executed as a result. Not just a childhood memoir, the book is much broader in its scope, revealing what African life is like both in its brutality and its beauty, which Forna describes with painful emotion. In later life, armed with a strong sense of incompleteness and a desire for justice, she went back to see what went wrong and to meet those who took part in her father's downfall. Mohammed Forna, her father, married a Scotswoman while studying in Aberdeen, but his real love was his country, Sierra Leone. There he took on the heavy and dangerous responsibility of government, becoming minister of finance. When he became a political prisoner, the family fled to London. Although the core of the book is the death of Dr Forna, the author writes with unflinching honesty about her experiences as a child as she travelled from one country to another and of the complicated extended family of which she was part. In the early 1970s racism was very much part of life for the young Aminatta - the cruelties of ostracism in London make uncomfortable reading as does the barbarism and inhumanity that resulted when Sierra Leone became corrupted and both government and people lost their way, leading to ghastly atrocities. The book has been compared to White Swans in its scope; it has an enormous generosity and warmth combined with a sensitive exploration of the universal themes of man's inhumanity to man, betrayal, courage and the pressing need for truth. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

511 ratings
3.99 out of 5 stars
5 36% (182)
4 37% (187)
3 21% (109)
2 5% (23)
1 2% (10)
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