Monkeys in my Garden: Unbelievable but true stories of my life in Mozambique by Valerie Pixley
|Monkeys in my Garden: Unbelievable but true stories of my life in Mozambique by Valerie Pixley|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: From London to Portugal to Mozambique, Valerie Pixley and her husband O'D have led an interesting life. Her account of their various madcap adventures is by turns funny, frightening and enlightening. Valerie Pixley popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 413||Date: July 2013|
Valerie Pixley and her husband O'D live in Mozambique, amidst its rapidly disappearing forests. Monkeys in my Garden tells the story of what life is like in the Nhamacoa Forest and how they came to be there. It opens with a terrifying scene: armed bandits in their bedroom in the middle of the night.
The narrative takes you from Africa to London to Portugal and back to Africa again. The Pixleys don't like to stand still! O'D is the one with the itchiest feet and while Val occasionally complains or objects, it's clear she is also far from a city gal. This adventurous spirit leads the couple into some hair-raising adventures. They're burned out of their idyllic home in Portugal. O'D is thrown into a terrifying African jail for failing to show the "proper" respect to corrupt authorities. Val almost loses a foot courtesy of the Matacena worm - a quite stomach-turning parasite. They are cursed by witch doctors. And of course, there is the terrifying bandit raid that opens the book. You won't find out how that turned out until the very end.
There is also some discussion of deforestation and the ensuing loss of flora and fauna. The Pixleys are still in the Nhamacoa Forest and they are still growing indigenous trees in their own personal reforestation project. Habitats are easy to lose and very difficult to get back. It's clear from what Pixley says that this a worry for all of us.
But it's not all disaster. Pixley has a complicated relationship with God, which she discusses throughout the book and this adds a personal, introspective note to proceedings. And there is a thoroughly entertaining parade of people and animals, all larger than life and all painted in vivid colour. There's the cook who blames plates for smashing themselves. There are cats and dogs and monkeys and goats. All in the house! You can see the attraction of this life when you compare it to a grey and damp London of nine-to-fives.
Pixley has a sprawling, meandering style. It's as if you are sitting around chatting together and the conversation often takes a detour or two. This makes for a comfortable, relaxing read - even though events are often far from relaxing! - but I should say that it also means some chapters lose a bit of focus and forget where they're going. You might need to bear with her a bit but she does get there in the end.
Most of all, though, Monkeys in my Garden tells the story of a life lived to the full, sometimes for good, sometimes for unintended ill, and it's a hugely entertaining, vicarious read. It also raises important questions about environmentalism, corruption in developing countries and what we can or should do to help. But mostly, it's a personal memoir. Some people are just made to be larger than life. And the Pixleys are two of them.
For more African memoirs, you could also look at Man in a Mud Hut by Ian Mathie and Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa by Peter Godwin. You might also enjoy Child of the Jungle by Sabine Kuegler, for which the setting is Papua New Guinea.
You can read more book reviews or buy Monkeys in my Garden: Unbelievable but true stories of my life in Mozambique by Valerie Pixley at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Monkeys in my Garden: Unbelievable but true stories of my life in Mozambique by Valerie Pixley at Amazon.com.
Valerie Pixley was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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