Supper With The President by Ian Mathie

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Supper With The President by Ian Mathie

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Ian Mathie recalls West Africa in the 1970's where he met presidents and many other colourful characters in his role as a water engineer. A real insight into daily life and extraordinary events for an ex-patriate in post-Colonial Africa.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 252 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Mosaique Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1906852108

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It's such a pleasure to read an Ian Mathie book, so I really looked forward to Supper with the President. No surprises, then, to find this book every bit as delightful, intriguing and informative as his others. Ian Mathie knows exactly how to stitch up a good story; the occasional photographs - proving the stories are not fiction – come almost as a surprise. The books are helpfully illustrated with simple maps placing the stories in geographical context. To me, Ian Mathie is simply the best of the relatively unknown writers I have come across as a reviewer. Interestingly, the two men in my household grab and devour Ian Mathie's books, and I imagine anyone interested in development issues and/or Africa would welcome one or two of his titles for Christmas.

Ian Mathie worked for the British government in the 1970's bringing his water engineering expertise to rural West African communities in Mali, Senegal, Ghana and Togo. His self-imposed brief was to find ways round central bureaucracy and corruption, local culture and ignorance, which he surely did with his diplomatic skills and 'can do' attitude to every challenge. In the days long before Live Aid and Comic Relief, Ian Mathie was helping ordinary Africans to help themselves.

A lovely story he tells is of a dam built in Southern Mali by the army, following his tongue in cheek, unconventional proposal to an interested stranger over supper, who turns out to be the President of Mali. The scheme was a huge success, providing water to grow fresh vegetables. Sadly, nine years on, the dam failed because the footings had been inadequately prepared by the military. It is sobering to realise how long we have been pedalling to stand still.

Having been brought up in Africa, Ian Mathie is no professional writer flitting through the land for the benefit of armchair travellers and his bank balance. Instead he is the real thing, a man who lived, worked and made temporary homes among the people he helped - and it shows. Just for interest, he joined a camel caravan travelling from Timbuktu North across the Sahara to the salt mines of Taoudeni and then on to Laghouat in Algeria, an intrepid journey of forty-seven days. I doubt he would have survived without his own survival skills and the goodwill of the caravanserai.

Another chapter begs some interesting questions when an apparent curse on him is mysteriously lifted by a local witchdoctor. This strange tale is made all the more powerful by Ian Mathie's unassuming, pragmatic writing, absolutely convincing the reader of the authenticity of his account.

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

Suggestions for further reading:

This book is a good place to start on Ian Mathie's memoirs of his working life in Africa. I thoroughly recommend Bride Price, Man in a Mud Hut and The Man of Passage and am really pleased there are more still to come! I enjoyed Dr Lark by Bill Larkworthy, also from Mosaique Press. If you are interested in an in-depth analysis, the admirable Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Scott Kilman and Roger Thurow is highly readable.

Buy Supper With The President by Ian Mathie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Supper With The President by Ian Mathie at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Supper With The President by Ian Mathie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Supper With The President by Ian Mathie at Amazon.com.

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