Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie

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Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: This year's best-kept secret: an original writer who tells a darn good tale. With all the elements of a Cold War thriller, this true memoir is from Ian Mathie's time as a water engineer in West Africa.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 260 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Mosaique Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1906852092

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Ian Mathie deserves a wider audience. I can't understand why he hasn't been leapt upon by Radio 4 , Saga Magazine, the Sunday papers, the Daily Mail, Uncle Tom Cobley and all since the publication of Bride Price in January. Here is a fine new Voice who is completely his own man. His writing is spare, uncomplicated and unassuming. Now Ian Mathie has taken a dusty-dry civil servant and turned him into a hero. Desmond's first visit to Africa is the theme of the dramatic Man in a Mud Hut story. Set in the 1970's, the intrigue and suspense sort of reminded me of The Spy who came in from the Cold - and it all happened.

Desmond Parkis, from an office desk in London, is sent out to investigate some strange goings-on at a British-government sponsored project in Nigeria. Ian is instructed to provide a brief induction in his home village, to support Desmond's first visit to Africa. Desmond arrives, and his culture shock at Ian's rural lifestyle in Anehigouya provides a comic prelude to the tensions of the following story. After some typically African delays, Ian finds himself delivering his guest personally to Nigeria by Cessna (piloting a light aircraft is one of his many skills) and returns to rescue him soon after. Desmond's adventures hold our interest to the last page.

I thought this book was absolutely terrific, if anything, even better than Bride Price, which also deals with a short but dramatic period in Ian Mathie's career. The publishers, Mosaique Press, seem to have made a sensible decision to split the author's African memoirs into four shortish, very readable books, so there are two more in the pipeline to enjoy in the future. What I loved most about the first two books was the fine writing, which never clamours for attention, but quietly tells an authentic and powerful story. In the background is a real-life Boys' Own adventure hero (Ian himself) who has an enormous knowledge and respect of the local culture which is passed on to Desmond and to the reader. Bear Grylls, eat your heart out!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book.

Suggestions for further reading: two books set in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe pre-UDI) are Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa by Peter Godwin and The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg. Also take a look at Bookbag's Top Ten Books About Africa.

Buy Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie at

Buy Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie at


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Rosanne Dingli said:

I agree. Ian Mathie's writing is what turns the adventure in Africa into an adventure in reading - the words disappear, and you are there, in the rich vegetation, holding hands with the smiling children. You are just as stunned as newcomer Desmond, and hang on the narrative as if you were listening to Ian Mathie tell the story around a fire, with you his only listener. As if you were hanging on, a passenger in his Cessna. That it all happened is felt: the genuine sensations cannot be other than real. I am only a third into Man in a Mud Hut, and after Bride Price, I am savouring it. After all, we do not gobble a rich box of chocolates all down at once, do we?

Alan Powell said:

Everything in the review is true – the book is a delightful read and a most illuminating insight into African life. Having read both Bride Price and Man in a Mud Hut, I can't wait for the next publication.

Alan Powell