The Slope of
A boy’s tale of Africa
by Anthony R. Edwards
Review by Barry Boy
I was given Kongwa Hill when it was “OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day”, in exchange for an honest review.
Edwards goes out of his way to set the scene in the beginning of Kongwa Hill, and I think that that pays dividends, because most of the story’s readers would be lost without it, the area in question being so remote and unheard of for most of today’s readers. In fact, Kongwa is in Tanganyika in south-east Africa.
It was the location of a failed British government project, and was later converted into a school for ex-pat children – boys and girls.
We meet the narrator, Tony Edwards, when he is about ten years of age and heading out to Tanganyika to be reunited with his parents who are working there in a place called Lindi. The date is the early Fifties, and the times are very different from now.
The first thing that struck me was Tony’s relationship with his parents. He would be about twelve years older than myself, but I easily recognised the attitudes and expectations of the Fifties British. On almost every page, I found myself being reminded of my early youth, even though I had never been to a public school in the UK or abroad.
Edwards, the narrator and writer, captures the spirit of the time perfectly in this novel, which could be an autobiography, although that was not made clear to me. The rules of society were so much different then. Many of them were petty, and many of the petty ones were self-imposed, but no less important for that.
Edwards’ tale leads us through what it was like to grow up not only in the Fifties, which many of us older ones can relate to, but also in a fairly remote part of Africa, which would be new to most readers.
It brought back memories to me of the long-gone days when teachers were called ‘Sir’ and wielded canes; when authority was respected (but still flouted) and a decent boy would not look up a girl’s skirt, if he had the opportunity, out of respect for her.
Not only that, it took me back to the days when a kiss was the most thrilling thing in my life; when just being in the presence of a pretty girl could stop me like a .44 Magnum would stop a chicken.
Not only that through. Edwards mixes in colourful descriptions of local scenery, people and even political reality such as Kenyatta’s Mau Mau revolutionaries in Kenya.
There are also depictions of end-of-term dances, awkward reunions with parents, and unexplained loss of contact with great friends, never to be seen again, although they meant so much at the time.
I thoroughly enjoyed Kongwa Hill. The cover is suiting, and it has been well edited, although there are inconsistencies such as: Dar es Salaam and Dar-es-Salaam; and sometimes ‘dad’ or ‘father’ is spelled with a capital and sometimes not (same with ‘mum’ and ‘mother’).
Kongwa Hill recaptures an important part of British, and African, history. I’m glad that it has been recorded.
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