Wild Child: Growing Up a Nomad by Ian Mathie

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Wild Child: Growing Up a Nomad by Ian Mathie

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: The missing link is Ian Mathie's series of books is a delight to read and a particular treasure as it's been published after Ian's death in 2017.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 280 Date: March 2019
Publisher: Mosaique Press
ISBN: 978-Wild Child

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For Ian Mathie fans there is good and bad news. Ian has come up with the missing link in his narrative, the story of a very unusual childhood (yes, the very years that made him the amazing man he became). The bad – well it's hardly news two years later – is that the book is published posthumously. As always, it's beautifully written, with many exciting moments. What I most enjoyed was the feeling that many of the questions in Ian Mathie's later books are answered in Wild Child with a satisfying clunk. Seemingly all that's now left in the drawer is unpublishable.

Ian describes himself as 'growing up a nomad.' An army family, the Mathies lived together in colonial Rhodesia, Malay, Aden and Nigeria, interspersed with shorter periods in Scotland and England. Later, Ian was sent to school in Southern England where he was constantly in trouble, but learned to fly and saved a boy's life. After flying training with the RAF, Ian was recruited by men in grey suits – make of that what you will - and spent most of his working life as a water engineer in Africa.

Flying between the UK and Africa as he did, the dramatic, abrupt change of continent is strongly evoked in Ian's sensory descriptions of coming home to Africa. The differences he perceived in culture and values whilst growing up made him quick to evaluate people and places and flexible enough to draw the best from them.

Ian's first language was Gaelic. It wasn't until the family arrived in Africa that Ian started to pick up English, communicating instead in the local dialect with his preferred black friends and at the local Mission school. Pre-GCEs, he was proficient enough in French to step in as the official translator when General Mobuto of the new Congolese army visited his father, now the CO of a Nigerian training camp. Language ability would prove useful to a man who needed to communicate anywhere in Africa.

The business of 'manning up' never seems to have bothered Ian. He had his own agenda of inquisitiveness and stubborn independence which neither parent pushed or helicoptered. Instead they encouraged his survival skills and self-efficacy, that feeling of personal 'can do' which is core to success in engineering projects.

A reader or viewer who knows My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell will recognise Ian's scientific curiosity to discover the poisonous creatures of Africa. He learned to evaluate the danger and respect them all. He used his knowledge to cut squeamish school bullies in England down to size: a good tactic to be frightened by nothing and no-one in Africa.

This is an interesting read for anyone questioning the opportunities for independence offered to children today. If you enjoy Wild Child, you may also like Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott and there are lots more African books reviewed by The Bookbag.

Buy Wild Child: Growing Up a Nomad by Ian Mathie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wild Child: Growing Up a Nomad by Ian Mathie at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Wild Child: Growing Up a Nomad by Ian Mathie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wild Child: Growing Up a Nomad by Ian Mathie at Amazon.com.

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