A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson
|A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A sweet and gentle comedic novel in which Mr Malik does ornithological battle for the hand, heart and rock and roll skills of the delectable Rose Mbwika. Funny, sweet, and humane, and more germane than you could possibly imagine, it's from the school of Alexander McCall Smith. A perfectly relaxing read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: March 2009|
Mr Malik is a short, round, quiet and unassuming widower, and he sports a Bobby Charlton comb-over with mild regret but firm obstinacy. After all, one major hairstyle change in a lifetime is enough for any man. Mr Malik has twin passions - the colourful birds of his Kenyan home, and Rose Mbikwa - I'm typing this sentence with Mr Malik's coiffure attitude, and I will not pun - doyenne of the East African Ornithological Society. Mr Malik is just beginning to pluck up the courage to make advances on Rose through an invitation to the annual Hunt Ball, when his erstwhile nemesis from school, Harry Khan, shows up.
And before he knows it, Mr Malik is embarked on a twitching competition for the fair lady's hand - not that she knows anything about it, but Mr Malik's compatriots at the Abadi Club certainly do, and Mr Singh is running a book on the outcome.
Oh, but A Guide to the Birds of East Africa was funny, sweet, and humane. It was also more germane than you could possibly imagine. Drayson paints a sweetly comedic picture of this ornithological battle for a fair lady's hand, and you are rooting for Mr Malik, the underdog, from the very first moment. But as the book goes on, you find yourself liking him more and more, and it's not just for the Brit's love of an unlikely winner. Mr Malik, so it turns out, has a political satirist's mind, and he is hiding many lights under his unassuming bushels. He also has regrets, for which he is trying heroically - and anonymously - to atone.
As everyone is saying, the book is very much from the school of Alexander McCall Smith. It's sweet and kindly, but it certainly isn't sappy. But its more serious points - here, about government corruption, urban violence, AIDS, and all the other issues facing Africa - are made without rancour or venom. You just can't knock a book like this as a reviewer - what's to knock? You get some laughs, you get some serious points, you get the odd tear in your eye. But more than anything else, what you get is a relaxing and kindly, but pointedly subtle, read, and a vivid portrait of a part of Africa, that most vivid of continents.
My thanks to the nice people at Penguin for sending the book.
If A Guide to the Birds of East Africa sounds right up your alley, you might also like the equally irresistably African The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. For a change of scene, but a similar heart, you could look at the Channel Islands during WWII in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson is in the Top Ten Books For Your Mother.
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You can read more book reviews or buy A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson at Amazon.com.
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