On Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd

Brazzaville Beach is a tremendous novel.
Right from the beginning it has the
feel of something rather unusual and for me there was a definite double-take
moment when I realised I'd found my place.
It's centred around 2 main aspects
of Hope Clearwater's life, her time with her husband in the UK and her time
without in Africa.
The drive of the plot centres around Hope's work observing
chimpanzees in the world's leading scientific project on the subject of the
animals. She's cottoned on to the fact that strange things are happening within
her community of chimps that have taken themselves away from the main group. The
chimps from the north are sending patrols into the southern territories and this
is the cause for a lot of interest. Unfortunately for her, the more she finds
out, the more she realises that her discoveries are contrary to the theories of
her eminent bosses and it seems that they'll go to any length to suppress her
Weaving in and out of this African scene is her background and her
relationship with her very driven husband who is a gifted mathematician. He's
obsessed by seeing things in different ways and interprets things with numbers
and visual patterns. It's a background that helps to explain Hope's current
situation and thinking, while providing a hugely interesting story in
There's plenty of what I've come to expect from William Boyd in
It's quite addictive, which is quite often the case for me when reading
his books.
There's the wonderful detail in the characters and settings and
he's a bit like Hope's husband in the way he can present what is commonplace in
new ways that make it a pleasure to get to know people and place.
There are
the asides that show a tremendous knowledge in a vast range of areas (or at
least they seem to) that are interesting in themselves, but are also very
relevant and helpful as part of a gentle analysis.
There's the African
setting, clearly understood and alive with the exotic.
I loved it. I feel
like I've had a good workout and a huge amount of entertainment.
The sad
thing is, I was reading a signed, hard-back, 1990 first edition and it's
borrowed from a friend. I'd so like to keep it on my shelves and have considered
a few ways of explaining its loss (the cat ate it and the like), but it never
worked on my teachers and I don't suppose my conscience could take it these
A super story that you should check out.